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Ann Thorac Surg. 2014 Jul;98(1):175-81; discussion 182. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2014.03.014. Epub 2014 May 1.

Lung resection outcomes and costs in Washington State: a case for regional quality improvement.

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Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington; Surgical Outcomes Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. Electronic address:
Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Providence Physician Group Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery, Everett, Washington.
Franciscan Health System, Catholic Health Initiatives, Tacoma, Washington.
Thoracic Surgery Division, Swedish Cancer Institute, Seattle, Washington.
Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington.
Surgical Outcomes Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.



A regional quality improvement effort does not exist for thoracic surgery in the United States. To initiate the development of one, we sought to describe temporal trends and hospital-level variability in associated outcomes and costs of pulmonary resection in Washington (WA) State.


A cohort study (2000-2011) was conducted of operated-on lung cancer patients. The WA State discharge database was used to describe outcomes and costs for operations performed at all nonfederal hospitals within the state.


Over 12 years, 8,457 lung cancer patients underwent pulmonary resection across 49 hospitals. Inpatient deaths decreased over time (adjusted p-trend=0.023) but prolonged length of stay did not (adjusted p-trend=0.880). Inflation-adjusted hospital costs increased over time (adjusted p-trend<0.001). Among 24 hospitals performing at least 1 resection per year, 5 hospitals were statistical outliers in rates of death (4 lower and 1 higher than the state average), and 13 were outliers with respect to prolonged length of stay (7 higher and 6 lower than the state average) and costs (5 higher and 8 lower than the state average). When evaluated for rates of death and costs, there were hospitals with fewer deaths/lower costs, fewer deaths/higher costs, more deaths/lower costs, and more deaths/higher costs.


Variability in outcomes and costs over time and across hospitals suggest opportunities to improve the quality and value of thoracic surgery in WA State. Examples from cardiac surgery suggest that a regional quality improvement collaborative is an effective way to meaningfully and rapidly act upon these opportunities.

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