A Comprehensive Estimation of the Costs of 30-Day Postoperative Complications Using Actual Costs from Multiple, Diverse Hospitals

Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2020 Oct;46(10):558-564. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjq.2020.06.011. Epub 2020 Jul 3.


Background: The cost of surgical care is largely measured by charges or payments, both of which are inadequate. Actual cost data from the hospital's perspective are required to accurately quantify the financial return on investment of engaging in quality improvement. The objective of this study was to define the cost of individual, 30-day postoperative complications using robust cost data from a diverse group of hospitals.

Methods: Using clinical data derived from the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, this retrospective study assessed postoperative complications for patients who underwent surgery at one of four hospitals in 2016. Actual direct and indirect 30-day costs were obtained, and the adjusted cost per complication was determined.

Results: From the 6,387 patients identified, the three complications associated with the highest independent adjusted cost per event were prolonged ventilation ($48,168; 95% confidence interval [CI]: $21,861-$74,476), unplanned intubation ($26,718; 95% CI: $15,374-$38,062), and renal failure ($18,528; CI: $17,076-$19,981). The three complications associated with the lowest independent adjusted cost per event were urinary tract infection (-$372; 95% CI: -$1,336-$592), superficial surgical site infection ($2,473; 95% CI: -$256-$5,201) and venous thromboembolism ($7,909; 95% CI: -$17,903-$33,721). After colectomy, the adjusted independent cost of anastomotic leak was $10,195 (95% CI: $5,941-$14,449), while the cost of postoperative ileus was $10,205 (95% CI: $6,259-$14,149).

Conclusion: The actual hospital costs of complications were estimated using cost data from four diverse hospitals. These data can be used by hospitals to estimate the financial benefit of reducing surgical complications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Colectomy
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Venous Thromboembolism*