Anesthesiologists and nurses use specific criteria to determine if a patient is fit enough to be discharged from the recovery room. A patient must:

• be able to breathe properly without assistance

• have stable vital signs (for example, blood pressure and heart rate)

• be awake (except children, see separate section) and orientated

• have minimal pain and nausea.

If there is any bleeding from the surgical site, it should be well controlled and minimal.

In general, when a patient meets all these criteria, the nurse may discharge the patient from the Recovery Room without the anesthesiologist being present. However, some patients require review by their anesthesiologist, even if they meet the discharge criteria. Other patients might not meet the criteria, despite having spent what appears to be an appropriate length of time in the Recovery Room. This might be because of complications from the operation or the anesthesia, or from problems with pre-existing conditions. These patients might require further consultation (e.g. by a cardiologist or referral to an HDC or ICU).

The nurses are responsible for maintaining a record of the patient's condition in the Recovery Room. They are also responsible for conveying relevant information to the nursing unit or clinic to which the patient is to be transferred. Depending on the operation, most patients stay for a minimum of 30 minutes in the Recovery Room, although this time may be increased to a few hours if the patient has undergone a very complex operation. Occasionally patients may have to stay longer in the Recovery Room, although they are ready for discharge because of administrative problems within the hospital, such as a lack of nurses or porters to transport the patient, or a lack of beds on the nursing unit.