The purpose of this study was to determine whether preoperative screening of pediatric patients, accomplished by means of a preoperative telephone call to their parents, would decrease the rate of cancellation or postponement of ambulatory surgical procedures. Data from 5031 patients scheduled for ambulatory surgery were collected. During phase I of the study, when phone calls were attempted only during business hours, we contacted 805 of 1662 (48%) of patients' parents. The contact rate improved to 71% (2403 of 3369 patients) during phase II of the study, when phone calls were made in the evening, and parents were encouraged by the surgeons to call the ambulatory unit. Approximately 13% of the contacted parents reported a history of medical problems in their children. A preoperative anesthesia consultation was required in 2.8% of the patients whose parents were contacted. The rate of postponed or canceled surgery among those who could not be screened was 14.8%; among patients who were screened, it was 9.7% (P < 0.001). Patients in the former group were more likely than those in the latter group to require inpanent care for monitoring or treatment of underlying medical problems (1.3% vs 0.3%, respectively; P < 0.05). We conclude that a preoperative telephone interview is an effective method for screening pediatric ambulatory surgical patients.
(C) 1992 International Anesthesia Research Society