Background: We measured 13-year trends in operative mortality for six cancer resections. We then examined whether these trends are driven by changes in hospital and surgeon volume or by changes that occurred among all providers, regardless of volume.
Methods: We analyzed administrative discharge data on patients who received one of six cancer resections in Florida, New Jersey, and New York for three time periods: 1988 to 1991, 1992 to 1996, and 1997 to 2000. Descriptive statistics and nested regression models were used to test for changes in the association between inpatient mortality and annual hospital and annual surgeon volume over time, adjusting for patient and hospital characteristics.
Results: Unadjusted inpatient mortality rates for the six cancer resections declined between .8 and 4.0 percentage points between the time periods 1988 to 1991 and 1997 to 2000. Over this time period, annual hospital and surgeon volumes for the six cancer operations increased an average of 24.3% and 24.2%, respectively. The logistic regressions indicated a relatively stable relationship over time between both increased hospital and surgeon volume and lower inpatient mortality. Simulations suggest that increases in hospital and surgeon procedure volume over time led to a reduction in inpatient mortality ranging from .1 percentage points for rectal cancer to 2.3 percentage points for pneumonectomy.
Conclusions: Persistence of the volume-outcome relation and increasing hospital and surgeon volumes explain much of the decline over time in inpatient mortality for five of the six cancer operations studied. Concentrating cancer resections among high-volume providers should lead to further reduced inpatient mortality.