Record review to explore the adequacy of post-operative vital signs monitoring using a local modified early warning score (mews) chart to evaluate outcomes

Journal Article


Journal Title

PLoS One

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Public Library of Science


University of Cape Town

Objectives 1) To explore the adequacy of: vital signs’ recordings (respiratory and heart rate, oxygen saturation, systolic blood pressure (BP), temperature, level of consciousness and urine output) in the first 8 post-operative hours; responses to clinical deterioration. 2) To identify factors associated with death on the ward between transfer from the theatre recovery suite and the seventh day after operation. Design Retrospective review of records of 11 patients who died plus four controls for each case. Participants We reviewed clinical records of 55 patients who met inclusion criteria (general anaesthetic, age >13, complete records) from six surgical wards in a teaching hospital between 1 May and 31 July 2009. METHODS: In the absence of guidelines for routine post-operative vital signs’ monitoring, nurses’ standard practice graphical plots of recordings were recoded into MEWS formats (0 = normal, 1-3 upper or lower limit) and their responses to clinical deterioration were interpreted using MEWS reporting algorithms. RESULTS: No patients’ records contained recordings for all seven parameters displayed on the MEWS. There was no evidence of response to: 22/36 (61.1%) abnormal vital signs for patients who died that would have triggered an escalated MEWS reporting algorithm; 81/87 (93.1%) for controls. Death was associated with age, ≥61 years (OR 14.2, 3.0-68.0); ≥2 pre-existing co-morbidities (OR 75.3, 3.7-1527.4); high/low systolic BP on admission (OR 7.2, 1.5-34.2); tachycardia (≥111-129 bpm) (OR 6.6, 1.4-30.0) and low systolic BP (≤81-100 mmHg), as defined by the MEWS (OR 8.0, 1.9-33.1). CONCLUSIONS: Guidelines for post-operative vital signs’ monitoring and reporting need to be established. The MEWS provides a useful scoring system for interpreting clinical deterioration and guiding intervention. Exploration of the ability of the Cape Town MEWS chart plus reporting algorithm to expedite recognition of signs of clinical and physiological deterioration and securing more skilled assistance is essential.