Background: Because of concern about the quality of care in rural hospitals, we examined readmission following four surgical procedures commonly performed in Washington State rural hospitals: appendectomy, cesarean section, cholecystectomy, and transurethral prostatectomy.
Methods: In a retrospective cohort study, we identified all patients discharged after receiving one of the foregoing procedures using the statewide hospital discharge database. Readmissions to any hospital in the state within 7 or 30 days of discharge were also identified.
Results: During the 2-year period examined, there were no significant differences in readmission rates for surgeries performed in rural and urban hospitals, although the readmission rates for all four procedures were nominally lower in rural hospitals. Logistic regression analyses that controlled for factors that influence readmission did not change these results.
Conclusions: Investigating readmission rates following common surgeries, we found no evidence of low-quality surgical care in Washington State rural hospitals. Early readmission is an imperfect marker for poor surgical outcome, however, and other proxies for quality remain to be examined.