Aim Enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) produces benefits to patients by reducing the length of hospital stay and morbidity. Its effect on nursing and physiotherapy workload has been studied, but the demand upon radiology is unclear. We aimed to determine radiology use to understand possible hidden expenditure not included in existing ERAS cost-effectiveness analyses.
Method Two-hundred and sixty-five patients from a prospective multidimensional ERAS database were retrospectively assessed for postoperative radiology use. All had undergone colorectal surgery within an established ERAS programme from 2008 to 2009, with all data prospectively recorded. Laparoscopy was offered for all primary colon and rectal resections. All adverse events, including gut dysfunction, surgical site infection and reoperation, were assessed. All radiology within 30 days of surgery was recorded.
Results Radiology data were absent in 12 patients, leaving 253 for analysis. Postoperative radiology was used in 71 (28%) patients, and 41 (16%) had CT of the abdomen and pelvis (A/P) within 30 days of surgery. In 33 (13%) patients this was required during the primary admission, including 30% of patients with any postoperative adverse event. Nine (27%; 3.6% of the whole cohort) of the 33 patients required reoperation. No patient required interventional radiology. The median time to CT (A/P) during primary admission was 5 (interquartile range, 3–8) days. Eight (3%) patients had CT (A/P) after readmission with one reoperation. Forty (16%) patients underwent plain radiology (chest or abdominal) and six (2%) had abdominal ultrasound. Using general estimates of CT and plain radiology total costs, these data suggest an overall radiology cost of over £22 000, amounting to a radiology cost of £90 per ERAS patient.
Conclusion Postoperative radiology is required in a significant proportion of ERAS patients, potentially reflecting a low threshold to investigate in the presence of an adverse event. Very few require subsequent intervention. Radiology costs incurred with ERAS should be considered in future economic analyses.