Background: The National Surgical Quality Improvement Project (NSQIP) has reduced morbidity rates in Veterans Affairs Hospitals. As the NSQIP methods move to private-sector hospitals, funding responsibilities will shift to the medical center. The objective of the current study was to calculate hospital costs associated with postoperative complications, because reducing morbidity may offset the costs of using the NSQIP.
Study design: Patient data were obtained from a single private-sector center involved in the NSQIP from 2001 to 2002 (n=1,008). Cost data were derived from the hospital's internal cost-accounting database (TSI; Transitions Systems Inc). Total hospital costs associated with both minor complications and major complications were calculated. Multiple linear regression was used to determine the cost of each type of complication after adjusting for patient characteristics.
Results: Rates of minor complications (6.3%, 64 events) and major complications (6.6%, 67 events) were similar. Median hospital costs were lowest for patients without complications (4,487 dollars) compared with those with minor (14,094 dollars) and major complications (28,356 dollars) (p<0.001). After adjusting for differences in patient characteristics, major complications were associated with an increase of 11,626 dollars (95% CI, 9,419 dollars to 13,832 dollars; p<0.001). Minor complications were not associated with increased costs in the adjusted analysis.
Conclusions: Given the substantial costs associated with major postoperative complications, reducing morbidity may provide sufficient cost savings to offset the resources needed to participate in the private-sector expansion of the NSQIP.