WASHINGTON – Hospital readmissions are common after resection of extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, with about 20% of patients returning in the first 90 days after surgery.
Two factors – surgical site infections and an abbreviated length of stay – both quadrupled the risk of readmission, Michail Mavros, MD, said at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress.
“Surgeons are scrutinized over length of stay and, as a result, these fast-track recovery pathways are increasingly important. Readmission rates are being used as a quality metric and performance indicator, and tied to reimbursement. But our data suggest that we should be somewhat cautious in implementing those with this surgery. The patient may look great with good pain control, and be eating and ambulating by day 4 or 5, but it may be premature to discharge at that point, and safer to wait a little longer. The financial penalty for readmission is probably not worth that small bonus we get for early discharge.”
The study comprised 422 patients who underwent resection with curative intent for extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. This is a rare tumor with about 5,000 cases presenting each year. Dr. Mavros and his colleagues extracted their data from the U.S. Extrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma Collaborative. The primary outcomes were 30- and 90-day readmission rates.
The patients’ median age was 67 years. About a third had mild comorbidities with an American Society of Anesthesiologist (ASA) comorbidity class of 1-2. The rest had moderate to severe comorbidities (ASA class 3-4). Hypertension was common (48%); 18% had diabetes.
Tumor location was split almost equally between distal and hilar; the median tumor size was 2.3 cm.
Final margins were positive in 28% and half of the cohort had positive regional lymph nodes.
The procedures were quite varied, and included common bile duct resection (18%); hepatectomy plus common bile duct resection (40%); and Whipple procedure (42%). The median estimated blood loss was 500 cc; 28% of the cohort required transfusion with packed red blood cells and 8% with fresh frozen plasma.
Postoperative complications were common (63%), with half of those being classed as serious. Infectious complications were most common, including superficial (11%), deep (7%), and organ space infections (16%).
Bile leaks occurred in 4% of cases. Reoperations were necessary in 7%. The 30-day mortality was 4.5% and 90-day mortality, 8%.The median length of stay was 8 days but this ranged from 7 to 18 days.
The 30-day readmission rate was 19% and the 90-day readmission rate was 23%. Most readmissions occurred fairly quickly – the median time to readmission was 12 days, with a range of 6-24 days.
The investigators conducted a multivariate analysis to determine independent predictors of readmission. The strongest predictors were any surgical complications (odds ratio, 8.4); organ-space infection (OR, 4.5); and length of stay of 8 days or less (OR, 4.3). Other predictors were advancing age (OR, 1.5 for each 10 years) and having had a liver resection (OR, 2.0).
“It’s clear from these results that avoidance of complications, especially infectious complications, may improve readmission rates dramatically,” Dr. Mavros said. “We would advise caution in implementing any fast-track protocols with these patients, given the finding that early discharge was associated with a higher rate of readmission.”
Dr. Mavros had no financial disclosures.