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Eff Clin Pract. 2002 May-Jun;5(3 Suppl):E5.

Using the Veterans Health Administration inpatient care database: trends in the use of antireflux surgery.

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  • 1VA Outcomes Group, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt 05009, USA.


Context. In the private sector, the use of surgery to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease has increased substantially since the development of minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques. However, trends in the use of antireflux surgery in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system have not been explored. Objective. To compare secular trends in the use of antireflux surgery in VA hospitals and the private sector. Data Sources. VA data are from the 1991-1999 medical SAS datasets for inpatient care (commonly known as patient treatment files); private sector data are from the 1991-1997 Nationwide Inpatient Sample and the U.S. census. Calculations. We compared secular trends in the use of antireflux surgery in the VA and private sector with each group's baseline rate in 1991. For the VA, we calculated annual rates of antireflux surgery among active users of the VA health care system by dividing the number of procedures (based on the appropriate procedure codes from the International Classification of Diseases, ninth revision, clinical modification) by the number of veterans who had at least two hospital or clinic visits in a given year. For the private sector, we calculated true population rates by dividing procedure counts by the total U.S. population. Results. From 1991 to 1995, the annual rate of antireflux surgery among active users of VA hospitals increased by 64%, then decreased over the next 4 years to almost baseline rates. In contrast, rates of antireflux surgery in the private sector increased 185% from 1991 to 1995, then appeared to reach a plateau thereafter. Among patients undergoing antireflux surgery, those in the VA were less likely than those in the private sector to undergo laparoscopic surgery (29% vs. 65%, respectively, in 1997). Conclusions. With the development of laparoscopic surgery, rates of antireflux surgery in VA hospitals increased only modestly compared with the private sector and have decreased in recent years. Both patient and provider factors may explain the substantially higher use of this procedure in the private sector.

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