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Association between psychological health and wound complications after surgery - British Journal of Surgery - 2017

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Original article
Association between psychological health and wound
complications after surgery
P. Britteon1 , N. Cullum2 and M. Sutton1
1
Manchester Centre for Health Economics and 2 Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Correspondence to: Mr P. Britteon, Manchester Centre for Health Economics, University of Manchester, Room 4.306 Jean McFarlane Building,
Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK (e-mail: [email protected])
Background: Surgical wound complications remain a major cause of morbidity, leading to higher costs
and reduced quality of life. Although psychological health is widely considered to affect wound healing,
the evidence on wound outcomes after surgery is mixed. Studies generally focus on small samples of
patients undergoing a specific procedure and have limited statistical power.
Methods: This study investigated the relationship between three different measures of anxiety and/or
depression and seven adverse surgical outcomes using observational data collected before and after
surgery between 2009 and 2011. A wide range of confounding factors was adjusted for, including
patient demographics, physical co-morbidities, health-related behaviours, month of operation, procedure
complexity and treating hospital.
Results: The estimation sample included 176 827 patients undergoing 59 410 hip replacements, 64 145
knee replacements, 38 328 hernia repairs and 14 944 varicose vein operations. Patients with moderate
anxiety or depression had an increased probability of wound complications after a hip replacement (odds
ratio (OR) 1⋅17, 95 per cent c.i. 1⋅11 to 1⋅24). They were more likely to be readmitted for a wound
complication (OR 1⋅20, 1⋅02 to 1⋅41) and had an increased duration of hospital stay by 0⋅19 (95 per cent
c.i. 0⋅15 to 0⋅24) days. Estimated associations were consistent across all four types of operation and for
each measure of anxiety and/or depression.
Conclusion: Preoperative psychological health is a significant risk factor for adverse wound outcomes
after surgery for four of the procedures most commonly performed in England.
Paper accepted 30 November 2016
Published online 14 February 2017 in Wiley Online Library (www.bjs.co.uk). DOI: 10.1002/bjs.10474
Introduction
In 2015–2016, admissions for general surgery in England
exceeded 1⋅1 million1 . Wound-related problems arising
after surgery remain a major cause of morbidity, despite
often being preventable. Surgical-site infection alone is
thought to affect at least 5 per cent of patients undergoing
surgery2 . Patients with wound complications face longer
periods of recovery, leading to an increased risk of death,
higher costs of treatment, and a significantly reduced quality of life3 . The adverse impact of wound complications
may even negate the benefits of the surgery4 .
Understanding the factors associated with wound complications can help to identify susceptible patients, deliver
appropriate interventions and reduce their incidence.
Although studies have generally focused on surgical
issues, patient factors also have an important role5 .
Factors associated with delayed wound healing include
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Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
patient characteristics such as age and sex, health-related
behaviours (such as smoking, alcohol consumption,
poor diet), physical co-morbidities (obesity, diabetes,
medications) and psychological health (stress, anxiety,
depression)6 . In particular, there is increasing evidence
that stress, anxiety and depression directly influence
immune response, and hence wound healing7 .
Several studies have investigated the impact of poor psychological health on wound healing and found similar
negative effects8,9 . However, relatively few studies have
focused specifically on the recovery of patients undergoing surgery10 , with most concentrating on outcomes
after cardiac surgery11 . Findings from these studies are
inconclusive10 . Wound healing takes many months, yet
discharge usually occurs within a week of surgery. As
such, incisional surgical wound complications nearly always
persist outside of hospital where the opportunities for
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770
wound observation and detailed data collection are lacking. Hence, analyses tend to be conducted for specific surgical procedures using small samples of patients10 . This
increases the heterogeneity between studies and reduces
the statistical power required to identify a significant effect.
In this study, rich observational hospital- and patientreported information was combined for 176 827 patients
undergoing four of the most common surgical procedures
in England. The impact of depression and anxiety on
wound-related complications after surgery was analysed,
controlling for a wide range of confounding prognostic
factors.
Methods
Since April 2009, the national Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) programme has collected
patient-reported information before and after surgery
from National Health Service (NHS) patients aged
12 years or over undergoing one of four common elective
procedures: unilateral hip replacement, unilateral knee
replacement, inguinal hernia repair and varicose vein
surgery. All providers of NHS care in England are required
to offer patients undergoing these procedures a preoperative PROMs questionnaire (Q1) before their date of
surgery. This usually occurs during the last outpatient
assessment or on the day of admission. A postoperative
PROMs questionnaire (Q2) is then mailed to the patient
6 months after the operation date for hip and knee replacement, and 3 months after operation for hernia repair and
varicose vein surgery. One reminder is sent to patients who
fail to respond. Patients are made aware that identifiable
information is anonymized to all hospital staff, including
surgeons.
PROMs data from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2011 were
linked to administrative data from Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) containing detailed clinical and demographic
information on all inpatient admissions in England.
Psychological health
Three alternative measures were used to characterize the
psychological status of the patient: two reported by the
patient before surgery and the third recorded by the
hospital during the patient’s admission.
Diagnosed depression
Patients’ self-identified co-morbidities were selected from
a list of 12 common serious conditions in the preoperative
PROMs questionnaire (depression, high BP, problems
caused by stroke, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes,
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P. Britteon, N. Cullum and M. Sutton
kidney disease, diseases of the nervous system, liver disease, cancer, arthritis, leg pain when walking due to poor
circulation). To minimize the use of medical terminology,
patients were asked: ‘Have you been told by a doctor that
you have any of the following?’. The study focused on
patients identifying themselves as having been diagnosed
with depression, the only psychological condition specified
in the list. Although self-reported medical diagnoses are
subject to recall bias, such measures have been shown to
correlate moderately or strongly with medical records and
are widely considered as valid instruments12,13 .
Patient-reported anxiety or depression
Responses to the EQ-5DTM (EuroQoL Group, Rotterdam, The Netherlands) reported by the patient before
surgery were also considered. The EQ-5D™ measures
health over five dimensions (anxiety or depression, mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain or discomfort). The study
focused on the anxiety or depression dimension. Patients
were offered three response categories: no problems, moderate problems or extreme problems. The EQ-5D™ is
the generic health measure recommended by the National
Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Hospital-recorded anxiety/depression
Clinical information on the diagnosed psychological health
status of patients recorded in HES was also considered.
Since 2009, hospitals have reported mental or behavioural
disorders of patients undergoing surgery as secondary
diagnoses, according to Chapter V of ICD-10. Patients
with a diagnosis of either an anxiety disorder (F41.X) or
a depressive episode (F32.X) were identified. These codes
represent the mental and behavioural disorders most commonly recorded by hospitals.
Wound-related outcomes
Patient-reported complication
In the postoperative PROMs questionnaire, patients were
asked: ‘Did you experience any of the following problems
after your operation: allergy or reaction to drug; urinary
problems; bleeding; and wound problems?’. Patients could
have developed the complication at any time during the 3or 6-month follow-up after surgery, both during or after
the hospital stay. The study focused on patients reporting a
wound problem. The validity of patient-reported complications is well documented14 .
Hospital-reported wound complication
Clinical outcomes reported by the hospital in HES were
also considered. Patients with a wound-related secondary
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Psychological health and wound complications after surgery
diagnosis recorded using the ICD-10 codes T81.3 (disruption of operation wound, not elsewhere classified) and
T81.4 (infection following a procedure, not elsewhere
classified) were identified. These codes were specifically
designed to capture postoperative events when recorded
as a secondary diagnosis.
Wound-related readmission
Patients readmitted to hospital after discharge where the
primary diagnosis code of the readmission was recorded
as T81.3 or T81.4 were identified. When recorded as
a primary diagnosis, the ICD-10 codes T80–T88 are
used to specify readmission to hospital from a previous
complication of surgical care. For consistency with the
patient-reported information, only readmissions within
3 months after surgery for hernia repair and varicose vein
procedures, and within 6 months after surgery for hip and
knee replacements, were considered.
Length of hospital stay
The patient’s duration of hospital stay during the admission
in which the surgery took place was recorded. Duration of
stay was defined as the number of days from admission to
discharge from hospital using HES data.
Statistical analysis
Several factors confounding the relationship between
psychological health and recovery from surgery were identified that had previously been adjusted for, or overlooked
in the literature8 . These likely confounding factors were
adjusted for using multiple logistic regression to calculate
adjusted odds ratios (ORs) when outcomes were binary, and
multiple linear regression when estimating the effect on
duration of stay. The adjusted factors included patient age,
sex and area-level income deprivation in 2010. An interaction term was used to allow adjustments for age to differ
between male and female patients. Other health conditions
were adjusted for using: the remaining conditions reported
in the preoperative PROMs questionnaire; the remaining
four EQ-5D™ physical dimensions; the patient’s duration
of symptoms before surgery; and whether the patient had
undergone previous surgery of the same type. Secondary
diagnosis codes from HES were also used to adjust for
indicators of obesity (E66.X), nutritional deficiencies
(E40–E46, E50–E64), sleep disorders (F51.X, G47.X,
R06.X, Z72.8, G25.8), smoking use (Z72.0, F17.2) and
alcohol use (Z21.1, F10.2). Data on ethnicity, disability
and whether the patient lived alone contained a large
proportion of missing values and so were not included.
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771
Finally, binary indicators were included to adjust for differences between hospitals, between primary procedures
and between months.
Separate models were estimated for each measure of
psychological health. For most analyses, each of the four
procedures was considered separately. However, because
hospitals often did not code patients with wound-related
complications, the analyses were not stratified by procedure type when estimating effects on hospital-reported
outcomes, in order to maintain statistical power. Confidence intervals were calculated using cluster-robust
standard errors to allow for the multilevel (patients within
hospitals) structure of the data.
Results
Response rates to the preoperative PROM questionnaire
between April 2009 and March 2011 varied between
organizations and by procedure type: hip replacement
(77⋅6 per cent), knee replacement (81⋅1 per cent), hernia
repair (55⋅3 per cent) and varicose vein procedures (45⋅4
per cent)15,16 . The follow-up postoperative questionnaire
was issued to 94⋅9 per cent of the patients who completed
the preoperative questionnaire. Response rates to the
postoperative questionnaire also varied across procedure
type: hip replacement (83⋅7 per cent), knee replacement
(82⋅9 per cent), hernia repair (73⋅3 per cent) and varicose
vein procedures (64⋅3 per cent). Of patients who completed
both questionnaires, 80⋅2 per cent could be linked to HES.
Final response rates varied between 22⋅5 and 50⋅5 per cent
across the four procedures.
Some 178 622 patients completed both the preoperative
and postoperative questionnaires, and could be linked to
HES: 60 157 hip replacements, 64 887 knee replacements,
38 516 hernia repairs and 15 062 varicose vein operations.
However, information on the area of residence needed to
identify levels of income deprivation was missing for 1795
(1⋅0 per cent) of these patients. The final estimation sample contained 176 827 patients: 59 410 hip replacements,
64 145 knee replacements, 38 328 hernia repairs and 14 944
varicose vein operations.
Estimation results
Wound complications were frequently reported as an
adverse outcome across all procedures (Table 1). Patients
reported wound complications more frequently when
undergoing varicose vein surgery (14⋅6 per cent) compared
with hip replacements (9⋅4 per cent), knee replacements
(12⋅0 per cent) and hernia repair (11⋅0 per cent). Very few
patients undergoing hernia repair (0⋅03 per cent) and varicose vein surgery (0⋅01 per cent) were coded by the hospital
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Table 1
P. Britteon, N. Cullum and M. Sutton
Descriptive statistics of surgical outcomes and psychological factors by procedure group
Patient-reported outcomes
Wound complication
Other complications
Bleeding
Allergy or reaction
Urinary
Hospital-reported outcomes
Wound complication
Wound-related readmission
Length of stay (days)
Day case
1
2
3
4
5
6
≥7
Psychological factors
Previously diagnosed depression
Problems with anxiety or depression
None
Moderate
Extreme
Hospital-recorded anxiety or depression
Hip replacement
(n = 59 410)
Knee replacement
(n = 64 145)
Hernia repair
(n = 38 328)
Varicose vein surgery
(n = 14 944)
5605 (9⋅4)
7716 (12⋅0)
4226 (11⋅0)
2189 (14⋅6)
3260 (5⋅5)
6380 (10⋅7)
7168 (12⋅1)
4298 (6⋅7)
7899 (12⋅3)
6964 (10⋅9)
2163 (5⋅6)
1544 (4⋅0)
3132 (8⋅2)
2012 (13⋅5)
441 (3⋅0)
218 (1⋅5)
291 (0⋅5)
240 (0⋅4)
306 (0⋅5)
400 (0⋅6)
10 (0⋅0)
107 (0⋅3)
1 (0⋅0)
37 (0⋅2)
57 (0⋅1)
200 (0⋅3)
2552 (4⋅3)
10 365 (17⋅4)
13 613 (22⋅9)
11 006 (18⋅5)
7018 (11⋅8)
14 599 (24⋅6)
83 (0⋅1)
191 (0⋅3)
2209 (3⋅4)
11 290 (17⋅6)
15 621 (24⋅4)
11 860 (18⋅5)
7632 (11⋅9)
15 259 (23⋅8)
26 355 (68⋅8)
10 057 (26⋅2)
1176 (3⋅1)
333 (0⋅9)
153 (0⋅4)
74 (0⋅2)
38 (0⋅1)
142 (0⋅4)
13 177 (88⋅2)
1601 (10⋅7)
118 (0⋅8)
32 (0⋅2)
5 (0⋅0)
5 (0⋅0)
2 (0⋅0)
4 (0⋅0)
4073 (6⋅9)
4848 (7⋅6)
1595 (4⋅2)
1001 (6⋅7)
34 082 (57⋅4)
22 387 (37⋅7)
2941 (5⋅0)
1086 (1⋅8)
39 933 (62⋅3)
21748 (33⋅9)
2464 (3⋅8)
1287 (2⋅0)
32 316 (84⋅3)
5658 (14⋅8)
354 (0⋅9)
326 (0⋅9)
11 732 (78⋅5)
2925 (19⋅6)
287 (1⋅9)
143 (1⋅0)
Values in parentheses are percentages.
as having a wound-related complication. Wound-related
complications were coded by the hospital more frequently
for hip (0⋅5 per cent) and knee (0⋅5 per cent) replacements.
Rates of readmission for a wound complication of previous
surgery varied across procedures (from 0⋅2 to 0⋅6 per cent).
Patients requiring joint replacement had a longer duration
of stay than those undergoing hernia repair and varicose
vein surgery, where the majority of patients were treated
as a day case (68⋅8 and 88⋅2 per cent respectively).
Patients having hip and knee replacement surgery were
more likely to have experienced poor psychological health
than those undergoing hernia repair and varicose vein
surgery (Table 1). Those having hip and knee replacement
reported higher rates of diagnosed depression (6⋅9 and 7⋅6
per cent respectively) and more frequently stated that they
were moderately (37⋅7 and 33⋅9 per cent) or extremely (5⋅0
and 3⋅8 per cent respectively) anxious or depressed before
surgery. Likewise, a greater proportion of patients undergoing hip (1⋅8 per cent) and knee (2⋅0 per cent) replacement
were recorded by the hospital to have an anxiety disorder or
depressive episode during their admission compared with
patients undergoing hernia repair (0⋅9 per cent) and varicose vein surgery (1⋅0 per cent).
The psychological health measures were positively correlated, as expected (Table 2). The proportion of patients
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Table 2
Alternative measures of psychological health
Problems with
anxiety or
depression
No. of
patients
Previously diagnosed
depression
Hospital-recorded
anxiety or
depression
None
Moderate
Extreme
118 063
52 718
6046
1417 (1⋅2)
7710 (14⋅6)
2390 (39⋅5)
680 (0⋅6)
1678 (3⋅2)
484 (8⋅0)
Values in parentheses are percentages.
who had been diagnosed with depression increased with
levels of reported problems with anxiety or depression
from 1⋅2 per cent (none) to 14⋅6 per cent (moderate)
to 39⋅5 per cent (extreme). Likewise, the proportion of
patients diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depressive episode by the hospital also increased with levels of
reported problems with anxiety or depression from 0⋅6 per
cent (none) to 3⋅2 per cent (moderate); only a small fraction
of patients who had self-identified as having extreme problems with anxiety or depression (8⋅0 per cent) were identified with a depressive episode or anxiety disorder by the
hospital.
Patients with anxiety and/or depression were more likely
to experience a wound problem after surgery (Table 3).
The associations reduced but remained significant after
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Psychological health and wound complications after surgery
Table 3
773
Association between psychological factors and wound complications after surgery
Patient-reported wound complication†
Hip replacement
Previously diagnosed depression
No
Yes
Problems with anxiety or depression
None
Moderate
Extreme
Hospital-recorded anxiety or depression
None
Any
Knee replacement
Previously diagnosed depression
No
Yes
Problems with anxiety or depression
None
Moderate
Extreme
Hospital-recorded anxiety or depression
None
Any
Inguinal hernia repair
Previously diagnosed depression
No
Yes
Problems with anxiety or depression
None
Moderate
Extreme
Hospital-recorded anxiety or depression
None
Any
Varicose vein procedure
Previously diagnosed depression
No
Yes
Problems with anxiety or depression
None
Moderate
Extreme
Hospital-recorded anxiety or depression
None
Any
No. of patients*
Unadjusted odds ratio
Adjusted odds ratio
5040 (9⋅1)
565 (13⋅9)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅61 (1⋅47, 1⋅76)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅36 (1⋅24, 1⋅50)
2841 (8⋅3)
2393 (10⋅7)
371 (12⋅6)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅32 (1⋅25, 1⋅39)
1⋅59 (1⋅41, 1⋅79)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅17 (1⋅11, 1⋅24)
1⋅26 (1⋅10, 1⋅43)
5463 (9⋅4)
142 (13⋅1)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅46 (1⋅21, 1⋅75)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅32 (1⋅10, 1⋅59)
6897 (11⋅6)
819 (16⋅9)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅54 (1⋅42, 1⋅68)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅28 (1⋅17, 1⋅40)
4353 (10⋅9)
2947 (13⋅6)
416 (16⋅9)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅28 (1⋅22, 1⋅35)
1⋅66 (1⋅47, 1⋅88)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅13 (1⋅06, 1⋅19)
1⋅27 (1⋅12, 1⋅45)
7516 (12⋅0)
200 (15⋅5)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅35 (1⋅15, 1⋅59)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅24 (1⋅05, 1⋅45)
3966 (10⋅8)
260 (16⋅3)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅61 (1⋅41, 1⋅84)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅34 (1⋅16, 1⋅55)
3365 (10⋅4)
790 (14⋅0)
71 (20⋅1)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅40 (1⋅29, 1⋅52)
2⋅16 (1⋅67, 2⋅78)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅20 (1⋅10, 1⋅30)
1⋅66 (1⋅27, 2⋅17)
4177 (11⋅0)
49 (15⋅0)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅43 (1⋅07, 1⋅91)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅29 (0⋅98, 1⋅71)
1993 (14⋅3)
196 (19⋅6)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅46 (1⋅25, 1⋅70)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅27 (1⋅08, 1⋅51)
1611 (13⋅7)
510 (17⋅4)
68 (23⋅7)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅33 (1⋅19, 1⋅49)
1⋅95 (1⋅55, 2⋅46)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅21 (1⋅07, 1⋅36)
1⋅68 (1⋅25, 2⋅26)
2161 (14⋅6)
28 (19⋅6)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅42 (0⋅94, 2⋅16)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅13 (0⋅71, 1⋅79)
Values in parentheses are *percentages and †95 per cent confidence intervals. Estimation sample: hip replacement, 59 410; knee replacement, 64 145;
hernia repair, 38 328; varicose vein surgery, 14 944. Odds ratios were estimated by multiple logistic regression.
adjustment for confounding factors. Following hip replacement, previously diagnosed depression increased the
probability of wound complications (OR 1⋅36, 95 per
cent c.i. 1⋅24 to 1⋅50). Likewise, patients undergoing hip
replacement who had moderate problems of anxiety or
depression were more likely to develop a wound complication than patients reporting no problems with anxiety
or depression (OR 1⋅17, 1⋅11 to 1⋅24). The association
with extreme problems of anxiety or depression was even
stronger (OR 1⋅26, 1⋅10 1⋅43). These associations were
similar in magnitude and significance for patients undergoing knee replacement, hernia repair and varicose vein
surgery. Hospital-recorded anxiety or depression was
significantly associated with the rate of surgical wound
problems only for patients undergoing hip (OR 1⋅32, 1⋅10
to 1⋅59) or knee (OR 1⋅24, 1⋅05 to 1⋅45) replacement.
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774
Table 4
P. Britteon, N. Cullum and M. Sutton
Influence of psychological health on hospital-reported outcomes after surgery for all procedures
Adjusted odds ratio
Previously diagnosed depression
No
Yes
Problems with anxiety or depression
None
Moderate
Extreme
Hospital-recorded anxiety or depression
None
Any
Wound diagnosis
Wound readmission
Coefficient for length of stay (change in days)
1⋅00 (reference)
0⋅96 (0⋅69, 1⋅33)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅37 (1⋅11, 1⋅69)
1⋅00 (reference)
0⋅23 (0⋅14, 0⋅32)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅14 (0⋅96, 1⋅36)
1⋅18 (0⋅86, 1⋅63)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅20 (1⋅02, 1⋅41)
1⋅30 (0⋅92, 1⋅84)
1⋅00 (reference)
0⋅19 (0⋅15, 0⋅24)
0⋅49 (0⋅33, 0⋅65)
1⋅00 (reference)
0⋅92 (0⋅50, 1⋅73)
1⋅00 (reference)
1⋅08 (0⋅66, 1⋅78)
1⋅00 (reference)
0⋅44 (0⋅25, 0⋅62)
Values in parentheses are 95 per cent confidence intervals. Estimation sample: 176 827. Odds ratios were estimated by multiple logistic regression, and
coefficients by multiple linear regression.
Diagnosed depression (OR 0⋅96, 0⋅69 to 1⋅33), reported
moderate (OR 1⋅14, 0⋅96 to 1⋅36) and extreme (OR
1⋅18, 0⋅86 to 1⋅63) problems with anxiety or depression, and hospital-recorded anxiety or depression (OR
0⋅92, 0⋅50 to 1⋅73) were not significantly associated with
hospital-reported wound complications (Table 4). Previously diagnosed depression, however, was significantly
associated with readmission for a surgical wound complication (OR 1⋅37, 1⋅11 to 1⋅69). Likewise, patients reporting
moderate (OR 1⋅20, 1⋅02 to 1⋅41) or extreme (OR 1⋅30,
0⋅92 to 1⋅84) anxiety or depression were more likely to be
readmitted because of a surgical wound complication.
Each psychological health measure was significantly associated with a longer mean duration of hospital stay: by 0⋅23
(95 per cent c.i. 0⋅14 to 0⋅32) days for previously diagnosed depression, 0⋅19 (0⋅15 to 0⋅24) and 0⋅49 (0⋅33 to
0⋅65) days for moderate and extreme problems with anxiety or depression respectively, and 0⋅44 (0⋅25 to 0⋅62) days
for hospital-diagnosed anxiety or depression.
Moderate problems with anxiety or depression were also
associated with bleeding (OR 1⋅14, 1⋅05 to 1⋅24), allergy
(OR 1⋅09, 1⋅04 to 1⋅16) and urinary (OR 1⋅21, 1⋅15 to 1⋅28)
complications after hip replacement surgery (Table S1, supporting information). Extreme problems with anxiety or
depression had larger associations than moderate problems
with bleeding (OR 1⋅21, 1⋅04 to 1⋅41), allergy (OR 1⋅25,
1⋅11 to 1⋅41) and urinary (OR 1⋅48, 1⋅31 to 1⋅67) complications. Allergy complications after a hip replacement were
not associated with previously diagnosed depression (OR
1⋅01, 0⋅91 to 1⋅12) or hospital-recorded anxiety or depression (OR 1⋅11, 0⋅91 to 1⋅37). Similar results were found for
patients undergoing knee replacement and hernia repair.
Discussion
Large proportions of patients reported having moderate
(29⋅8 per cent) or extreme (3⋅4 per cent) problems with
© 2017 BJS Society Ltd
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
anxiety or depression before surgery. Patients’ preoperative
psychological health status was significantly associated with
wound-related problems after surgery for hip replacement,
knee replacement, hernia repair and varicose vein surgery.
These associations were large and strong. They were
consistent for three different anxiety and/or depression
measures, and after adjusting for a wide range of confounding factors including patient demographics, physical
co-morbidities, health behaviours, month of operation,
procedure complexity and treating hospital.
Anxiety and/or depression were not, however, associated with wound complications recorded by hospitals
during the patients’ stay. Instead, anxiety and/or depression
were significantly associated with surgical wound-related
readmissions. Anxious and/or depressed patients were also
more likely to stay in hospital longer. Although the increase
in duration of stay was small at an individual level, the relative effect was sizeable given that the mean duration of stay
for the sample of patients was only 4⋅51 days. Furthermore,
anxiety and/or depression were strongly associated with
urinary and bleeding complications after surgery, but only
mildly associated with allergy and adverse drug reaction.
This study adds to the existing evidence concerning
the relationship between psychological health and wound
healing. The results support smaller studies7,17 – 20 whose
findings generally indicated a negative impact of anxiety
or depression on wound healing, and other studies21 – 24
that were too underpowered to detect important associations as statistically significant. The associated increase
in wound-related readmissions and duration of stay is
especially large when the implications are considered at
the population level. Furthermore, the findings were consistent with recent evidence in non-cardiac surgery that
patients on anxiolytic drugs were more likely to develop a
surgical wound complication after a broad range of general,
vascular, urological and plastic surgery procedures11 .
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BJS 2017; 104: 769–776
Psychological health and wound complications after surgery
Unlike past studies, individual information was used
from a large, national sample of patients. This allowed
adjustment for a wide range of confounding factors without
losing the statistical power needed to identify significant
associations. It was not possible to adjust for every potential confounding factor associated with the complex wound
healing process (including exercise, wound severity, complications during surgery, quality of care after discharge,
use of medication and education), but the combined use of
PROMs and HES allowed adjustment for numerous factors
omitted from previous studies, including health-related
quality of life, health behaviours and co-morbidity8 .
Large administrative data sets such as HES may contain
incomplete information on patient conditions if hospitals
do not report the required information for coding. As a
result, the present estimates may have only partly adjusted
for obesity, smoking, alcohol use, nutritional deficiency
and sleep disorders. Nevertheless, adjustment for each
hospital-reported condition had little or no effect on the
estimated association between anxiety and/or depression
and outcomes after surgery.
PROMs data were not available for all eligible patients
identified in HES. There are three main reasons why
information on PROMs may have been missing: the
hospital may have failed to administer the preoperative
questionnaire; patients may not have participated in, or
responded to, the survey; or the required information may
have been insufficient to link the PROMs record to the
HES episode25 . To reduce missingness, it was assumed
that patients responding ‘yes’ to any of the four postoperative complications in PROMs (wound, bleeding, allergy,
urinary) did not experience other problems if they left
these answers blank14 . Nevertheless, the present results
may not have been representative of the full population
of patients if responders differed from non-responders in
terms of unadjusted factors correlated with anxiety and/or
depression and the outcome of interest25 . Re-estimation
of the association between hospital-recorded anxiety or
depression and hospital-reported outcomes using the full
eligible sample allowed an investigation of the potential
direction of any response bias. The magnitude of the association between anxiety and/or depression on outcomes
after surgery was larger, or the same, for the sample of
non-responding patients, suggesting no, or a downward
bias in the sample analysed. This is supportive of the findings, suggesting that observed associations would persist
in the full population.
Patients suffering from depression or anxiety may have
been more likely to report complications regardless of
the surgical outcome, inflating the estimated associations.
However, there was a significant association between
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Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
775
anxiety and/or depression with readmissions recorded by
hospitals related to surgical wounds. Furthermore, consideration of the other patient-reported complication indicators revealed no impact of psychological health on allergy
or drug reaction problems, as would be expected. The fact
that associations increased incrementally with levels of
anxiety or depression gives further weight to the findings.
Hospital-recorded anxiety or depression may have arisen
as a consequence of the postoperative wound complication, thereby inflating the estimated associations. Using
PROMs data allowed measurement of patients’ psychological health before surgery, which overcame this issue.
Additionally, patient-reported outcomes were recorded
3–6 months after surgery. Complications that developed
after discharge from hospital were therefore captured.
However, it was only possible to identify that a patient
developed a wound problem, not when it developed or the
nature of the problem. These findings are based on information from 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 (the latest available). Future work should investigate whether the observed
associations between preoperative depression and/or anxiety and wound outcomes still exist.
These results highlight a relationship between psychological health and adverse wound outcomes after surgery.
This relationship warrants further exploration in order to
understand the mechanisms and potential opportunities
for intervention. The study also emphasises the importance of the psychological state before surgery, and the fact
psychological disorders are often overlooked. Preoperative
assessment should address psychological as well as physical
health, given the significant impact of anxiety/depression
on wound-related complications and readmissions.
Acknowledgements
This report is independent research supported by the
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR Research
Methods Programme, Fellowships and Internships,
NIHR-RMFI-2014-05-29). The views expressed in this
publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
those of the National Health Service, the National Institute
for Health Research or the Department of Health.
Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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Supporting information
Additional supporting information may be found in the online version of this article:
Table S1 Influence of psychological health on other patient-reported outcomes after surgery (Word document)
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Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
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