Background: Patients' own assessment of recovery after ambulatory surgery has not been well studied. The aim was to study patients' self-assessed recovery, the occurrence and time course of post-operative problems in relation to the type of ambulatory surgery.
Methods: A questionnaire was filled in by 355 patients at five time points: pre-operative, first day at home, 1, 2 and 4 weeks post-operatively. Consecutive patients who underwent either inguinal hernia repair (IHR), arthroscopic procedures (AS) or cosmetic breast augmentation (CBA) were included.
Results: Unplanned return to hospital was rare (3/355). Health care contacts were noted for 9% of the patients during the first week; a total of 70 contacts occurred during the entire period. Pain was the most frequently reported symptom; 40% of the patients reported pain or mobility problems at 1 week, 28% after 2 weeks and 20% after 4 weeks. Pre-operative pain was associated with an increased level of pain during the early post-operative course, in the recovery room and at 1 week post-operatively. IHR was associated with an overall rapid recovery, while AS patients experienced a slower restitution. All AS patients who reported pain after 4 weeks had reported pain problems already pre-operatively. Pain was not present pre-operatively in the CBA group, but was common at 1 and 2 post-operative weeks and was still reported by 11% at 4 weeks.
Conclusion: Self-assessed recovery was found to cover several weeks with procedure-specific recovery patterns. Pain and mobility impairment were still frequently reported 4 weeks post-operatively.