Care Fragmentation and Mortality in Readmission after Surgery for Hepatopancreatobiliary and Gastric Cancer: A Patient-Level and Hospital-Level Analysis of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Administrative Database

J Am Coll Surg. 2021 Jun;232(6):921-932.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2021.03.017. Epub 2021 Apr 15.


Background: Hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB) and gastric oncologic operations are frequently performed at referral centers. Postoperatively, many patients experience care fragmentation, including readmission to "outside hospitals" (OSH), which is associated with increased mortality. Little is known about patient-level and hospital-level variables associated with this mortality difference.

Study design: Patients undergoing HPB or gastric oncologic surgery were identified from select states within the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project database (2006-2014). Follow-up was 90 days after discharge. Analyses used Kruskal-Wallis test, Youden index, and multilevel modeling at the hospital level.

Results: There were 7,536 patients readmitted within 90 days of HPB or gastric oncologic surgery to 636 hospitals; 28% of readmissions (n = 2,123) were to an OSH, where 90-day readmission mortality was significantly higher: 8.0% vs 5.4% (p < 0.01). Patients readmitted to an OSH lived farther from the index surgical hospital (median 24 miles vs 10 miles; p < 0.01) and were readmitted later (median 25 days after discharge vs 12; p < 0.01). These variables were not associated with readmission mortality. Surgical complications managed at an OSH were associated with greater readmission mortality: 8.4% vs 5.7% (p < 0.01). Hospitals with <100 annual HPB and gastric operations for benign or malignant indications had higher readmission mortality (6.4% vs 4.7%, p = 0.01), although this was not significant after risk-adjustment (p = 0.226).

Conclusions: For readmissions after HPB and gastric oncologic surgery, travel distance and timing are major determinants of care fragmentation. However, these variables are not associated with mortality, nor is annual hospital surgical volume after risk-adjustment. This information could be used to determine safe sites of care for readmissions after HPB and gastric surgery. Further analysis is needed to explore the relationship between complications, the site of care, and readmission mortality.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / economics
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / statistics & numerical data
  • Continuity of Patient Care / economics
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Digestive System Neoplasms / economics
  • Digestive System Neoplasms / mortality
  • Digestive System Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / economics
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Readmission / economics
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Postoperative Complications / economics
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / economics
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Tertiary Care Centers / economics
  • Tertiary Care Centers / organization & administration
  • Tertiary Care Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors