Great variability exists in microsurgical postoperative care in the United States. Lack of standardized postoperative monitoring protocols and appropriate training of monitoring personnel leads to inefficiency and increased cost of providing microsurgical postoperative care. A 45-question survey was sent to all plastic surgery and plastic surgerybased microsurgery program directors in the United States. Questions focused on the number and type of flaps performed, length of stay, complications, postoperative monitoring setting, training provided to monitoring personnel, and limitations in flap monitoring. The response rate was 31% with 3407 microvascular free flaps performed annually at 26 centers. A total of 1533 flaps were monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU) for an average of 3.1 days. In 45% of responding centers patients were cared for in an ICU secondary to a lack of adequately trained nurses at alternative sites. Printed postoperative protocols were provided to nurses in 39% of centers. With a comparative increase cost of 2878 to 3345 per day for ICU care, this translates into an annual increased cost of 13.7 to 15.9 million to the responding centers. Improved nursing training and the use of standardized postoperative protocols may allow patients to be monitored in non-ICU settings postoperatively, thereby reducing the costs associated with providing postoperative microsurgical care.
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