Background: This study explores the volume-mortality relationship for 3 groups of cancer procedures to determine whether higher-volume hospitals, higher-volume surgeons, or both are associated with lower in-hospital mortality.
Methods: New York's Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System was used to identify more than 32,000 hospital inpatients with a cancer diagnosis who underwent colectomy, lobectomy of the lung, or gastrectomy between January 1, 1994, and December 31, 1997. The association of in-hospital mortality rates with provider (hospital and surgeon) volume was examined after adjusting for differences in age, demographics, organ metastasis, socioeconomic status, and comorbidities.
Results: For hospital volume for gastrectomy, the highest-volume quartile had an absolute risk-adjusted mortality rate that was 7.1% lower (P <.0001) than the lowest-volume quartile, although the overall mortality rate for the procedure was only 6.2%. For surgeon volume for colectomy, the highest- and lowest- volume quartiles differed by 1.9% (P <.0001), although the procedure mortality rate was only 3.5%. For hospital volume for lung lobectomy, the absolute difference in mortality was 1.7%. Patients undergoing operations performed by high-volume surgeons in high-volume hospitals usually had significantly lower risk-adjusted mortality rates than did patients who had low-volume surgeons or who were in low-volume hospitals, or both.
Conclusions: For all 3 procedure groups, the risk-adjusted in-hospital mortality is significantly lower when the procedures are performed by high-volume providers.