BACKGROUND: Whereas ultra-short stay (day care or 24 hour hospitalisation) following breast cancer surgery was introduced in the US and Canada in the 1990s, it is not yet common practice in Europe. This paper describes the design of the MaDO study, which involves the implementation of ultra short stay admission for patients after breast cancer surgery, and evaluates whether the targets of the implementation strategy are reached. The ultra short stay programme and the applied implementation strategy will be evaluated from the economic perspective. METHODS/DESIGN: The MaDO study is a pre-post-controlled multi-centre study, that is performed in four hospitals in the Netherlands. It includes a pre and post measuring period of six months each with six months of implementation in between in at least 40 patients per hospital per measurement period.Primary outcome measure is the percentage of patients treated in ultra short stay. Secondary endpoints are the percentage of patients treated according to protocol, degree of involvement of home care nursing, quality of care from the patient's perspective, cost-effectiveness of the ultra short stay programme and cost-effectiveness of the implementation strategy. Quality of care will be measured by the QUOTE-breast cancer instrument, cost-effectiveness of the ultra short stay programme will be measured by means of the EuroQol (administered at four time-points) and a cost book for patients. Cost-effectiveness analysis will be performed from a societal perspective. Cost-effectiveness of the implementation strategy will be measured by determination of the costs of implementation activities. DISCUSSION: This study will reveal barriers and facilitators for implementation of the ultra short stay programme. Moreover, the results of the study will provide information about the cost-effectiveness of the ultra short stay programme and the implementation strategy. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN77253391.