, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 397-402
Date: 23 May 2007

Short postal questionnaire and selective clinical examination combined with repeat mailing and telephone reminders as a method of follow-up in hernia surgery

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Abstract

Background

We assessed the usefulness of a short postal questionnaire and selective clinical examination combined with repeat mailing and telephone reminders for quality assessment in hernia surgery.

Methods

All patients (n = 1153) who underwent tension-free hernioplasty through an open preperitoneal approach between 1999 and 2003 received a six-item questionnaire with a covering letter and a stamped addressed envelope. Nonresponders received two successive new questionnaires and a telephone call.

Results

A total of 841 (72.9%) patients returned questionnaires after three reminders (512 after the first mailing, 205 after the second, and 124 after the third). Positive questionnaire answers were documented for 152 (18.1%) of repairs and negative answers for 689 (81.9%). Of the 152 patients who answered “yes” to either of the questions regarding recurrence and/or current pain, 91 declined clinical appointments, 24 could not be contacted by phone, and 37 underwent physical examination. Of the 312 patients who did not return the questionnaire, eight had died, 124 did not want to be visited, and 180 could not be located. The recurrence rate was 2.7% and the chronic pain rate 5.9%.

Conclusions

Repeat mailing was a useful strategy to improve response to self-administered postal questionnaires on hernia surgery quality assessment. However, contacting the group that responded with positive questionnaire answers was a poorly effective way to encourage subjects to come for a physical examination.