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Ann Surg. 2003 Aug;238(2):161-7.

Hospital volume, length of stay, and readmission rates in high-risk surgery.

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  • 1Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, White River Junction, VT 05009, USA. philip.goodney@hitchcock.org

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Aimed at reducing surgical deaths, several recent initiatives have attempted to establish volume-based referral strategies in high-risk surgery. Although payers are leading the most visible of these efforts, it is unknown whether volume standards will also reduce resource use.

METHODS:

We studied postoperative length of stay and 30-day readmission rate after 14 cardiovascular and cancer procedures using the 1994-1999 national Medicare database (total n = 2.5 million). We used regression techniques to examine the relationship between length of stay, 30-day readmission, and hospital volume, adjusting for age, gender, race, comorbidity score, admission acuity, and mean social security income.

RESULTS:

Mean postoperative length of stay ranged from 3.4 days (carotid endarterectomy) to 19.6 days (esophagectomy). There was no consistent relationship between volume and mean length of stay; it significantly increased across volume strata for 7 of the 14 procedures and significantly decreased across volume strata for the other 7. Mean length of stay at very-low-volume and very-high-volume hospitals differed by more than 1 day for 6 procedures. Of these, the mean length of stay was shorter in high-volume hospitals for 3 procedures (pancreatic resection, esophagectomy, cystectomy), but longer for other procedures (aortic and mitral valve replacement, gastrectomy). The 30-day readmission rate also varied widely by procedure, ranging from 9.9% (nephrectomy) to 22.2% (mitral valve replacement). However, volume was not related to 30-day readmission rate with any procedure.

CONCLUSION:

Although hospital volume may be an important predictor of operative mortality, it is not associated with resource use as reflected by length of stay or readmission rates.

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