OBJECTIVE--To assess the accuracy of outcome data on appendicectomy routinely collected as part of a surgical audit and to investigate outcome in the non-audited period after discharge. DESIGN--Retrospective analysis of audit data recorded by the Medical Data Index (MDI) computer system for all patients undergoing emergency appendicectomy in one year; subsequent analysis of their hospital notes and notes held by their general practitioners for patients identified by a questionnaire who had consulted their general practitioner for a wound complication. SETTING--One district general hospital with four consultant general surgeons serving a population of 250,000. PATIENTS--230 patients undergoing emergency appendicectomy during 1989. MAIN MEASURES--Comparison of postoperative complications recorded in hospital notes with those recorded by the MDI system and with those recorded by patients' general practitioners after discharge. RESULTS--Of the 230 patients, 29 (13%) had a postoperative complication recorded in their hospital notes, but only 14 (6%) patients had these recorded by the MDI system. 189 (82%) of the patients completed the outcome questionnaire after discharge. The number of wound infections as recorded by the MDI system, the hospital notes, and notes held by targeted patients' general practitioners were three (1%), eight (3%), and 18 (8%) respectively. None of 12 readmissions with complications identified by the hospital notes were identified by the MDI system. CONCLUSIONS--Accurate audit of postoperative complications must be extended to the period after discharge. Computerised audit systems must be able to relate readmissions to specific previous admissions.
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