Surgical site infection in orthopedic trauma: A case-control study evaluating risk factors and cost

J Clin Orthop Trauma. 2015 Dec;6(4):220-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jcot.2015.04.004. Epub 2015 Jun 18.


Background: With the shift of our healthcare system toward a value-based system of reimbursement, complications such as surgical site infections (SSI) may not be reimbursed. The purpose of our study was to investigate the costs and risk factors of SSI for orthopedic trauma patients.

Methods: Through retrospective analysis, 1819 patients with isolated fractures were identified. Of those, 78 patients who developed SSIs were compared to 78 uninfected control patients. Patients were matched by fracture location, type of fracture, duration of surgery, and as close as possible to age, year of surgery, and type of procedure. Costs for treatment during primary hospitalization and initial readmission were determined and potential risk factors were collected from patient charts. A Wilcoxon test was used to compare the overall costs of treatment for case and control patients. Costs were further broken down into professional fees and technical charges for analysis. Risk factors for SSIs were analyzed through a chi-squared analysis.

Results: Median cost for treatment for patients with SSIs was $108,782 compared to $57,418 for uninfected patients (p < 0.001). Professional fees and technical charges were found to be significantly higher for infected patients. No significant risk factors for SSIs were determined.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate the potential for financial losses in our new healthcare system due to uncompensated care. SSIs nearly double the cost of treatment for orthopedic trauma patients. There is no single driver of these costs. Reducing postoperative stay may be one method for reducing the cost of treating SSIs, whereas quality management programs may decrease risk of infection.

Keywords: Cost; Risk factors; Surgical site infection.