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Original Investigation
April 2016

Investigation of Postoperative Oral Fluid Intake as a Predictor of Postoperative Emergency Department Visits After Pediatric Tonsillectomy

Author Affiliations
  • 1Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • 2George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri
  • 3Department of Otolaryngology, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016;142(4):357-363. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2015.3711

Importance  This study contributes novel data on the association between oral fluid intake before discharge and adverse outcomes following tonsillectomy in pediatric patients. These data contribute to evidence-based, safe, and cost-effective decision making regarding discharge.

Objective  To determine whether the quantity of oral fluid intake before discharge is associated with adverse outcomes following tonsillectomy in pediatric patients.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A retrospective cohort analysis was conducted using the electronic medical records of 1183 pediatric patients undergoing tonsillectomy between September 24, 2012, and June 5, 2015, at a tertiary care academic medical center. Exclusion criteria included age 18 years or older, overnight admission, and missing data on fluid intake. The final cohort comprised 473 patients. Data analysis was conducted from July 8 to August 23, 2015.

Exposures  All patients underwent tonsillectomy by 1 of 7 attending surgeons at our institution. All patients were given intravenous fluids and analgesia in the postanesthesia care unit before being admitted to the pediatric inpatient floor for monitoring before discharge.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome measured was presentation to the emergency department within 2 weeks after tonsillectomy with a related complication. We also recorded hospital readmissions and returns to the operating room for related complications. The primary diagnosis was noted for each complication.

Results  Among 473 patients (235 male; mean [SD] age, 7.2 [3.5] years), oral fluid intake after tonsillectomy ranged from 0.7 to 66.7 mL/kg, with a mean (SD) intake of 18.2 (10.8) mL/kg. Mean (SD) time to discharge was 6.96 (1.91) hours (range, 1.68-14.25 hours). Overall, 31 patients (6.6%) presented to the emergency department for a related complication after tonsillectomy. No correlation was found between oral fluid intake after tonsillectomy and presentation to the emergency department (odds ratio, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.98-1.08; P = .29).

Conclusions and Relevance  This study suggests that oral fluid intake before discharge is not predictive of presentation to the emergency department after tonsillectomy within the ranges studied and at this institution. Therefore, discharge criteria based strictly on thresholds for oral fluid intake may be unnecessary. Further study at multiple institutions using a wider range of fluid intake volumes or a large-scale randomized clinical trial is needed before conclusions can be generalized.