Potential Impact of "Take the Volume Pledge" on Access and Outcomes for Gastrointestinal Cancer Surgery

Ann Surg. 2019 Dec;270(6):1079-1089. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002796.


Objective: To quantify the number of US hospitals that would meet "Take the Volume Pledge" (TVP) volume thresholds and compare outcomes at hospitals meeting and not meeting TVP thresholds.

Summary background data: TVP aims to regionalize complex cancer resections to hospitals meeting established annual average volume thresholds. There is little data describing the potential impact on patient access if this initiative were broadly implemented or the relationship between these volume thresholds and quality of oncologic care.

Methods: Hospitals in the National Cancer Database (2006-2012) performing esophagectomy (n = 968), proctectomy (n = 1250), or pancreatectomy (n = 1068) were categorized based on frequency meeting TVP thresholds: always low volume (LV); low annual average and intermittently low volume (ILV); high annual average and intermittently high volume (IHV); always high volume (HV). Multivariable generalized estimating equations were used to evaluate the association between hospital TVP category, oncologic care processes, and perioperative outcomes.

Results: Few hospitals met annual TVP thresholds (HV or IHV)-esophagectomy 1.6%; proctectomy 19.7%; pancreatectomy 6.6%. The majority of esophagectomy (77.8%) and pancreatectomy (53.4%) and 48.1% of proctectomy patients received care at hospitals not meeting annual TVP thresholds (LV or ILV). While performance for all three procedures was generally better at ILV, IHV, and HV hospitals relative to LV hospitals, there were few differences (none of which were consistent) when comparing ILV, IHV, and HV hospitals to each other.

Conclusions and relevance: Few hospitals would meet TVP volume thresholds for complex cancer resections with little difference in outcomes between ILV, IHV, and HV hospitals. While a policy to regionalize complex surgical care may have merit, it could also compromise patient autonomy and limit access to care if patients are unable or unwilling to travel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Hospitals, High-Volume
  • Hospitals, Low-Volume
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Procedures and Techniques Utilization
  • Retrospective Studies