Regionalization of Pediatric Surgery: Trends Already Underway

Ann Surg. 2016 Jun;263(6):1062-6. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000001666.


Introduction: This study aims to characterize the delivery of pediatric surgical care based on hospital volume stratified by disease severity, geography, and specialty. Longitudinal regionalization over the 10-year study period is noted and further explored.

Methods: The Kids' Inpatient Database (KID) was queried from 2000 to 2009 for patients <18 years undergoing noncardiac surgery. Hospitals nationwide were grouped into commutable regions and identified as high-volume centers (HVCs) if they had more than 1000 weighted procedures per year. Regions that had at least one HVC and one or more additional lower volume center were included for analysis. Low-risk, high-risk neonatal, and surgical subspecialties were analyzed separately.

Results: A total of 385,242 weighted pediatric surgical admissions in 33 geographical regions and 224 hospitals were analyzed. Overall, HVCs comprised 33 (14.7%) hospitals, medium-volume center (MVC) 33 (14.7%), and low-volume center (LVC) 158 (70.5%). The four low-risk procedures analyzed were increasingly regionalized: appendectomy (52% in HVCs in 2000 to 60% in 2009, P < 0.001), fracture reduction (63% to 68%, P < 0.001), cholecystectomy (54% to 63%, P < 0.001), and pyloromyotomy (65% to 85%, P < 0.001). Neonatal surgery showed significant regionalization trends for tracheoesophageal fistula (66% to 87%, P < 0.001) and gastroschisis (76% to 89%, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: This is the first large-scale, multi-region analysis to demonstrate that pediatric surgical care has transitioned to HVCs over a recent decade, particularly for low-risk patients. It is important for practitioners and policymakers alike to understand such volume trends in order to ensure hospital capacity while maintaining an optimal quality of care.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • General Surgery / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Hospitals, High-Volume / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / organization & administration*
  • Regional Health Planning*
  • United States / epidemiology