Practice Economics

Seven procedures account for most emergency general surgery costs and deaths

Key clinical point: National quality benchmarks and cost reduction efforts should focus on the seven most common, complicated, and costly emergency general surgery procedures.

Major finding: The majority (80%) of all admissions, deaths, complications, and inpatient costs attributable to emergency general surgery procedures nationwide can be accounted for by seven representative procedures.

Data sources: The 2008-2011 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s National Inpatient Sample claims database.

Disclosures: No external funding source was disclosed. Coauthor Dr. Adil H. Haider disclosed ties to industry sources. None of the other coauthors reported any conflicts of interest.


 

FROM JAMA SURGERY

References

A very low number of emergency general surgery procedures account for the majority of all admissions, deaths, complications, and inpatient costs attributable to emergency general surgery procedures nationwide, according to a study published in JAMA Surgery.

“More than half a million patients undergo urgent or emergent general surgery operations annually in the United States, which accounts for more than $6 billion in annual costs. Only seven representative procedures account for approximately 80% of all admissions, deaths, complications, and inpatient costs attributable to operative emergency general surgery nationwide,” said Dr. John W. Scott from the Center for Surgery and Public Health, department of surgery at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, and his associates.

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The investigators sought to expand the current diagnosis-based definition of emergency general surgery in order to define a standardized, representative set of procedures that comprise the majority of the national clinical burden of emergency general surgery. To accomplish this goal, Dr. Scott and his colleagues examined data from the 2008 to 2011 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s National Inpatient Sample, the largest publicly available all-payers claims database in the United States, from Nov. 15, 2015, to Feb. 16, 2016 (JAMA Surg. 2016 Apr 27. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2016.0480).

The results from this nationally representative observational study represented more than 2 million patient encounters, with a final analytic sample that included 137 unique four-digit ICD-9-CM procedure codes that mapped into 35 distinct three-digit procedure group codes. When ordered by burden rank, the cumulative attributable burden for total procedure count, total deaths, total complications, and total costs increased sharply through procedures ranked one to seven (partial colectomy, small-bowel resection, cholecystectomy, operative management of peptic ulcer disease, lysis of peritoneal adhesions, appendectomy, and laparotomy).

In addition, the procedure volumes were found to be highest for cholecystectomy and appendectomy, although the mortality and complication rates for these procedures were comparatively lower than for the other five identified procedures. For example, the frequency of procedures varied from 682,043 primary appendectomies to 9,418 primary laparotomies, but the mortality rate ranged from 0.08% for appendectomy to 23.76% for laparotomy. Similarly, the complication rate ranged from 7.27% for appendectomy to 46.94% for small-bowel resection. Study results also showed that mean inpatient costs ranged from $9,664.30 for appendectomy to $28,450.72 for small-bowel resection.

Based on their study data, Dr. Scott and his associates recommended national quality benchmarks and cost reduction efforts focused on the seven identified common, complicated, and costly emergency general surgery procedures.

No external funding source was disclosed. Coauthor Dr. Adil H. Haider disclosed ties to industry sources. None of the other coauthors reported any conflicts of interest.

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