Purpose: Ventral hernia repair (VHR) lacks standardization of care and exhibits variation in delivery. Complications of VHR, notably recurrence and infection, increase costs. Efforts at obtaining federal funding for VHR research are frequently unsuccessful, in part due to misperceptions that VHR is not a clinical challenge and has minimal impact on healthcare resources. We analyzed national trends for VHR performance and associated costs to demonstrate potential savings resulting from an improvement in outcomes.
Methods: Inpatient non-federal discharges for VHR were identified from the 2001-2006 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, supplemented by the Center for Disease Control 2006 National Survey of Ambulatory Surgery for outpatient estimates. The total number of VHRs performed in the US was estimated along with associated costs. Costs were standardized to 2010 US dollars using the Consumer Price Index and reported as mean with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).
Results: The number of inpatient VHRs increased from 126,548 in 2001 to 154,278 in 2006. Including 193,543 outpatient operations, an estimated 348,000 VHRs were performed for 2006. Inpatient costs consistently rose with 2006 costs estimated at US $15,899 (95% CI $15,394-$16,404) per operation. Estimated cost for outpatient VHR was US $3,873 (95% CI $2,788-$4,958). The total cost of VHR for 2006 was US $3.2 billion.
Conclusions: VHRs continue to rise in incidence and cost. By reducing recurrence rate alone, a cost saving of US $32 million dollars for each 1% reduction in operations would result. Further research is necessary for improved understanding of ventral hernia etiology and treatment and is critical to cost effective healthcare.