Quality-Cost Relationship in Congenital Heart Surgery

Ann Thorac Surg. 2015 Oct;100(4):1416-21. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2015.04.139. Epub 2015 Jul 14.


Background: There is an increasing focus on optimizing health care quality and reducing costs. The care of children undergoing heart surgery requires significant investment of resources, and it remains unclear how costs of care relate to quality. We evaluated this relationship across a multicenter cohort.

Methods: Clinical data from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons Database were merged with cost data from the Pediatric Health Information Systems Database for children undergoing heart surgery (2006 to 2010). Hospital-level costs were modeled using Bayesian hierarchical methods adjusting for case-mix, and hospitals were categorized into cost tertiles. The primary quality metric evaluated was in-hospital mortality.

Results: Overall, 27 hospitals (30,670 patients) were included. Median adjusted cost per case was $82,360 and varied fivefold across hospitals, while median adjusted mortality was 3.4% and ranged from 2.4% to 5.0% across hospitals. Overall, hospitals in the lowest cost tertile had significantly lower adjusted mortality rates compared with the middle and high cost tertiles (2.5% vs 3.8% and 3.5%, respectively, both p < 0.001). When assessed at the individual hospital level, most (75%) but not all hospitals in the lowest cost tertile were also in the lowest mortality tertile. Similar relationships were seen across the spectrum of surgical complexity. Lower cost hospitals also had shorter length of stay and trends toward fewer major complications.

Conclusions: Lowest cost hospitals generally deliver the highest quality care for children undergoing heart surgery, although there is some variation in this relationship. This information is important in the design of initiatives aiming to optimize health care value in this population.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / economics*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / standards*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Hospital Costs*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Quality of Health Care*