Object: Concern for patient safety, among other reasons, recently prompted sweeping changes in resident work policies in the US. Some have speculated that the arrival of new interns and residents at teaching hospitals each July might cause an annual transient increase in poor patient outcomes and inefficient care.
Methods: Data were analyzed for 4323 craniotomies for tumor resection and 22,072 shunt operations performed in pediatric patients between 1988 and 2000 in US nonfederal hospitals (Nationwide Inpatient Sample, Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD). In-hospital mortality rates, discharge outcome, complications, and efficiency measures (length of stay [LOS] and hospital charges) for patients treated in July and August were compared with similar data for patients in other months. There were no significant increases in any adverse end point for either tumor or shunt operations in July and August. Odds ratios (95% confidence interval [CI]) for outcome of tumor craniotomies performed in July and August compared with outcome for tumor craniotomies performed in other months were as follows: for mortality rate, 0.43 (0.14-1.32); for adverse discharge disposition, 1.03 (0.71-1.51); for neurological complications, 1.00 (0.63-1.59); for transfusion, 0.70 (0.41-1.19). Hospital charges were 0.5% lower (range -6 to 5%) in July and August, and LOS was 3% shorter (range -8 to 3%). Odds ratios (95% CI) for July or August shunt surgery compared with shunt surgery performed in other months were as follows: for mortality rate, 0.96 (0.58-1.60); for adverse discharge disposition, 0.85 (0.66-1.11); for neurological complications, 1.27 (0.75-2.16); for transfusion, 0.81 (0.48-1.37). Hospital charges were 0.2% higher in July and August (range -3 to 3%), and LOS was 3% shorter (range -5 to 0.5%).
Conclusions: Although moderate increases in some adverse end points could not be excluded, there was no evidence that brain tumor or shunt surgery performed in pediatric patients at US teaching hospitals during July and August is associated with more frequent adverse patient outcome or inefficient care than similar surgery performed during other months.