Background: Centralisation of surgical treatment of cancer has resulted in improved outcomes. We aimed to determine evidence of benefit for specialised management of upper gastrointestinal cancer in high-volume centres in Scotland.
Methods: Discharge records of patients undergoing oesophagectomy, gastrectomy, hepatectomy or pancreatectomy between 1982 and 2003 were identified. Hospital data were analysed on a year-by-year basis to derive 'hospital-years'. Hospital-years were divided into quartiles by volume, and were analysed with regard to in-hospital mortality during the operative admission [Chi-square test (chi(2)) and Chi-square test for trend (chi(2)(trend))].
Results: 10,625 patients and 982 in-hospital deaths were included. In-hospital mortality rates declined during the study period: oesophagectomy 11.7-7.9%; gastrectomy 11.2-7.2%; hepatectomy 11.1-3.0%; and pancreatectomy 8.3-4.9%. For all resections except gastrectomy, mortality decreased as quartile of hospital-year volume increased (oesophagectomy: chi(2)p=0.006, chi(2)(trend)p=0.001; hepatectomy: chi(2)p=0.004, chi(2)(trend)p=0.003; pancreatectomy: chi(2)p=0.002, chi(2)(trend)p=0.001). ORs of death were lower for oesophagectomy (OR=0.58; 95%CI=0.39, 0.88; p=0.009) and pancreatectomy (OR=0.35; 95%CI=0.19, 0.64; p<0.001) in hospital-years within highest-volume quartiles compared with lowest. Scattergraphs of all resection types demonstrated inverse power relationships between number of resections per hospital-year and mortality.
Conclusion: Concentration of cancer care has had major effects on health service delivery in Scotland. Centralisation should be supported in surgical management of upper gastrointestinal cancer.
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