Hospital volume and 30-day mortality for three common medical conditions

N Engl J Med. 2010 Mar 25;362(12):1110-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa0907130.


Background: The association between hospital volume and the death rate for patients who are hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, or pneumonia remains unclear. It is also not known whether a volume threshold for such an association exists.

Methods: We conducted cross-sectional analyses of data from Medicare administrative claims for all fee-for-service beneficiaries who were hospitalized between 2004 and 2006 in acute care hospitals in the United States for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, or pneumonia. Using hierarchical logistic-regression models for each condition, we estimated the change in the odds of death within 30 days associated with an increase of 100 patients in the annual hospital volume. Analyses were adjusted for patients' risk factors and hospital characteristics. Bootstrapping procedures were used to estimate 95% confidence intervals to identify the condition-specific volume thresholds above which an increased volume was not associated with reduced mortality.

Results: There were 734,972 hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction in 4128 hospitals, 1,324,287 for heart failure in 4679 hospitals, and 1,418,252 for pneumonia in 4673 hospitals. An increased hospital volume was associated with reduced 30-day mortality for all conditions (P<0.001 for all comparisons). For each condition, the association between volume and outcome was attenuated as the hospital's volume increased. For acute myocardial infarction, once the annual volume reached 610 patients (95% confidence interval [CI], 539 to 679), an increase in the hospital volume by 100 patients was no longer significantly associated with reduced odds of death. The volume threshold was 500 patients (95% CI, 433 to 566) for heart failure and 210 patients (95% CI, 142 to 284) for pneumonia.

Conclusions: Admission to higher-volume hospitals was associated with a reduction in mortality for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia, although there was a volume threshold above which an increased condition-specific hospital volume was no longer significantly associated with reduced mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Heart Failure / mortality*
  • Hospital Bed Capacity
  • Hospital Mortality*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals / classification
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Medicare
  • Myocardial Infarction / mortality*
  • Pneumonia / mortality*
  • Risk Adjustment
  • United States / epidemiology