Objective: To assess the impact of postoperative complications on full in-hospital costs per case.
Background: Rising expenses for complex medical procedures combined with constrained resources represent a major challenge. The severity of postoperative complications reflects surgical outcomes. The magnitude of the cost created by negative outcomes is unclear.
Patients and methods: Morbidity of 1200 consecutive patients undergoing major surgery from 2005 to 2008 in a tertiary, high-volume center was assessed by a validated, complication score system. Full in-hospital costs were collected for each patient. Statistical analysis was performed using a multivariate linear regression model adjusted for potential confounders.
Results: This study population included 393 complex liver/bile duct surgeries, 110 major pancreas operations, 389 colon resections, and 308 Roux-en-Y gastric bypasses. The overall 30-day mortality rate was 1.8%, whereas morbidity was 53.8%. Patients with an uneventful course had mean costs per case of US$ 27,946 (SD US$ 15,106). Costs increased dramatically with the severity of postoperative complications and reached the mean costs of US$ 159,345 (SD US$ 151,191) for grade IV complications. This increase in costs, up to 5 times the cost of a similar operation without complications, was observed for all types of investigated procedures, although the magnitude of the increase varied, with the highest costs in patients undergoing pancreas surgery.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates the dramatic impact of postoperative complications on full in-hospital costs per case and that complications are the strongest indicator of costs. Furthermore, the study highlights a relevant savings capacity for major surgical procedures, and supports all efforts to lower negative events in the postoperative course.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00855387.