Gaps in Emergency General Surgery Coverage in the United States

Ann Surg Open. 2021 Mar;2(1):e043. doi: 10.1097/as9.0000000000000043. Epub 2021 Feb 18.


Introduction: Despite three million adults in the United States (US) being admitted annually for emergency general surgery (EGS) conditions, which disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, we lack an understanding of the barriers to round-the-clock EGS care. Our objective was to measure gaps in round-the-clock EGS care.

Methods: From August 2015 to December 2015, we surveyed all US-based, adult acute care general hospitals that have an emergency room and ≥1 operating room and provide EGS care, utilizing paper and electronic methods. Surgeons or chief medical officers were queried regarding EGS practices.

Results: Of 2,811 hospitals, 1,634 (58.1%) responded; 279 (17.1%) were unable to always provide round-the-clock EGS care. Rural location, smaller bed size, and non-teaching status were associated with lack of round-the-clock care. Inconsistent surgeon coverage was the primary reason for lacking round-the-clock EGS care (n=162; 58.1%). However, lack of a tiered system for booking emergency cases, no anesthesia availability overnight, and no stipend for EGS call were also associated with the inability to provide round-the-clock EGS care.

Discussion: We found significant gaps in access to EGS care, often attributable to workforce deficiencies.