The additional hospital costs generated in the management of complications of pacemaker and defibrillator implantations

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1996 Apr;111(4):742-51;discussion 751-2. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5223(96)70334-3.


The rapid approach of capitated reimbursement mandates that providers examine their practice patterns associated with all surgical procedures. Documentation of (1) the complications associated with these procedures and (2) the additional hospital costs associated with the management of these complications is critical for comprehensive fiscal accountability. This study analyzed (1) the feasibility of obtaining accurate hospital cost data specific for complications and (2) the outcome in terms of fully loaded hospital costs generated in the management of the most common surgical complications associated with pacemaker and nonthoracotomy implantable defibrillator therapies. Between July 1989 and September 1994, a total of 1031 pacemaker and 105 implantable defibrillator procedures were performed by a cardiac surgeon in a tertiary-level teaching hospital setting. The additional fully loaded hospital costs were determined by (1) correlating clinical data from the complete medical record with complete hospital charge data for the admission(s) related to the complication, (2) carving out complication-related charges based on the clinical data, (3) converting complication-related charges to fully loaded costs based on conversion factors in effect at the time of service, and (4) correlating cost with hospital net reimbursement and payor source. The feasibility study determined that accurate and reliable cost data specific to complications can be obtained, although the process was cumbersome and difficult. The outcomes study determined that mean fully loaded complication costs were $4345 +/- $1540 for pacemaker lead revision and $4879 +/- $3167 for implantable defibrillator lead dislodgement, $24,459 +/- $14,585 for pacemaker infection, and $13,736 +/- $12,505 for defibrillator generator system malfunction. The one infected defibrillator cost $57,213 to treat. Costs exceeded reimbursement for almost all Medicare patients with complications in this study, suggesting that similar shortfalls would occur under a capitation scheme. This information is critical to a complete understanding of the financial impact of interventional procedures in a capitated reimbursement environment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiac Pacing, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Cardiac Pacing, Artificial / economics*
  • Defibrillators, Implantable / adverse effects
  • Defibrillators, Implantable / economics*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Hospital Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, University / economics*
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Middle Aged
  • Missouri
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / economics
  • Postoperative Complications / economics*
  • United States