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Neurosurg Focus. 2018 May;44(5):E19. doi: 10.3171/2018.2.FOCUS1812.

Cost-effectiveness development for the postoperative care of craniotomy patients: a safe transitions pathway in neurological surgery.

Author information

Department of Neurological Surgery.
Divsion of Hospital Medicine.
Division of Strategic Improvement, and.
School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California.


OBJECTIVE The authors' institution is in the top 5th percentile for hospital cost in the nation, and the neurointensive care unit (NICU) is one of the costliest units. The NICU is more expensive than other units because of lower staff/patient ratio and because of the equipment necessary to monitor patient care. The cost differential between the NICU and Neuro transitional care unit (NTCU) is $1504 per day. The goal of this study was to evaluate and to pilot a program to improve efficiency and lower cost by modifying the postoperative care of patients who have undergone a craniotomy, sending them to the NTCU as opposed to the NICU. Implementation of the pilot will expand and utilize neurosurgery beds available on the NTCU and reduce the burden on NICU beds for critically ill patient admissions. METHODS Ten patients who underwent craniotomy to treat supratentorial brain tumors were included. Prior to implementation of the pilot, inclusion criteria were designed for patient selection. Patients included were less than 65 years of age, had no comorbid conditions requiring postoperative intensive care unit (ICU) care, had a supratentorial meningioma less than 3 cm in size, had no intraoperative events, had routine extubation, and underwent surgery lasting fewer than 5 hours and had blood loss less than 500 ml. The Safe Transitions Pathway (STP) was started in August 2016. RESULTS Ten tumor patients have utilized the STP (5 convexity meningiomas, 2 metastatic tumors, 3 gliomas). Patients' ages ranged from 29 to 75 years (median 49 years; an exception to the age limit of 65 years was made for one 75-year-old patient). Discharge from the hospital averaged 2.2 days postoperative, with 1 discharged on postoperative day (POD) 1, 7 discharged on POD 2, 1 discharged on POD 3, and 1 discharged on POD 4. Preliminary data indicate that quality and safety for patients following the STP (moving from the operating room [OR] to the neuro transitional care unit [OR-NTCU]) are no different from those of patients following the traditional OR-NICU pathway. No patients required escalation in level of nursing care, and there were no readmissions. This group has been followed for greater than 1 month, and there were no morbidities. CONCLUSIONS The STP is a new and efficient pathway for the postoperative care of neurosurgery patients. The STP has reduced hospital cost by $22,560 for the first 10 patients, and there were no morbidities. Since this pilot, the authors have expanded the pathway to include other surgical cases and now routinely schedule craniotomy patients for the (OR-NTCU) pathway. The potential cost reduction in one year could reach $500,000 if we reach our potential of 20 patients per month.


ICU = intensive care unit; NICU = neurointensive care unit; NTCU = neuro transitional care unit; OR = operating room; PACU = post-anesthesia care unit; R&B = room and board; STP = Safe Transitions Pathway; UCSF = University of California, San Francisco; brain tumor; cost-effectiveness; craniotomy; intensive care unit; quality


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