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The association of health literacy and postoperative complications after colorectal surgery: A cohort study

Published:October 16, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2021.10.024

      Highlights

      • Limited health literacy patients have 2x higher odds of postoperative complications.
      • Limited health literacy patients are at the highest risk for surgical site infections.
      • Opportunities exist for more health literate care to optimize surgical outcomes.

      Abstract

      Background

      Health literacy is a determinant of health. Few studies characterize its association with surgical outcomes.

      Methods

      Retrospective cohort study of patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery 2015–2020. Health literacy assessed using Brief Health Literacy Screening Tool. Outcomes were postoperative complications, LOS, readmissions, mortality.

      Results

      Of 552 patients, 46 (8.3%) had limited health literacy, 506 (91.7%) non-limited. Median age 57.7 years, 305 (55.1%) patients were female, 148 (26.8%) were Black. Limited patients had higher rates of overall complications (43.5% vs. 24.3%, p = 0.004), especially surgical site infections (21.7% vs. 11.3%, p = 0.04). Limited patients had longer LOS (5 vs 3.5 days, p = 0.006). Readmissions and mortality did not differ. On multivariable analysis, limited health literacy was independently associated with increased risk of complications (OR 2.03, p = 0.046), not LOS (IRR 1.05, p = 0.67).

      Conclusion

      Limited health literacy is associated with increased likelihood of complications after colorectal surgery. Opportunities exist for health literate surgical care to improve outcomes for limited health literacy patients.

      Keywords

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