To assess patient waiting times for vascular surgery and to determine if complications of the disease develop while the patients are awaiting surgery.
Prospective cohort study.
A university-affiliated tertiary care institution.
All 554 patients who underwent scheduled vascular surgical procedures between April 1995 and October 1996.
A literature review carried out to develop guidelines for acceptable waiting times for surgery associated with various vascular disorders based on their natural history (benchmark target); actual waiting times, defined as the interval from the date each patient was booked for surgery to the date of admission to hospital for the procedure; the proportion of patients admitted within the benchmark targets; and whether prolonged waiting time placed patients at risk for complications of their disease.
Of the 554 patients, 382 (69%) were admitted within the benchmark waiting times. Of 84 patients having an abdominal aortic aneurysm, the aneurysm ruptured during the waiting period in 6, and 4 of them died, for a complication rate of 7% and a death rate of 5%. Two of the 6 aneurysms ruptured after the patient had waited longer than the target time. Three of 100 patients with symptomatic carotid artery stenosis awaiting admission for carotid endarterectomy suffered ischemic stroke, for a 3% complication rate; all had waited longer than the target period. One patient suffered occlusion of a femoropopliteal bypass graft while awaiting revision of a stenosed bypass graft.
This study suggests that although most patients are admitted for operation within the benchmark time, one-third are admitted late and may suffer serious complications of their disease while awaiting admission for the procedure.