Background: Postoperative complications are a significant source of morbidity and mortality. There are limited studies, however, assessing the impact of common postoperative complications on health care resource utilization.
Objective: To assess the association of clinically important postoperative complications with total hospital costs and length of stay (LOS) in patients undergoing noncardiac surgery.
Methods: We determined total hospital costs and LOS in all patients admitted to a single tertiary care center between July 1, 1996 and March 31, 1998 using a detailed administrative hospital discharge database. Total hospital costs and LOS were adjusted for preoperative and surgical characteristics.
Results: Of 7,457 patients who underwent noncardiac surgery, 6.9% developed at least 1 of the postoperative complications. These complications increased hospital costs by 78% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 68% to 90%) and LOS by 114% (95% CI: 100% to 130%) after adjustment for patient preoperative and surgical characteristics. Postoperative pneumonia was the most common complication (3%) and was associated with a 55% increase in hospital costs (95% CI: 42% to 69%) and an 89% increase in LOS (95% CI: 70% to 109%).
Conclusions: Postoperative complications consume considerable health care resources. Initiatives targeting prevention of these events could significantly reduce overall costs of care and improve patient quality of care.