Emergency surgeries increase costs, mortality rates

A 10 percent reduction in emergency surgery for three common procedures could save healthcare providers $1 billion over a decade, according to a new study published in the Annals of Surgery.

Researchers, led by Adil Haider, M.D., director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, analyzed risk of death and hospital costs for emergency procedures compared to planned, elective surgeries for coronary artery bypass graft, colon resection and abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. Haider and his team looked at a sample of 621,925 patients who underwent the three procedures from 2001 to 2010. They then calculated how much this care cost the hospital with standardized inpatient cost and charge data.

They found emergency surgery was 17 percent higher for coronary artery bypass graft, 53 percent costlier for colon resection and 30 percent more for abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. They also determined elective surgery patients experienced significantly lower mortality rates compared to those undergoing emergency procedures, although a 2013 study found emergency surgical admission mortality rates vary widely, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Surgical care costs, which make up nearly 30 percent of all healthcare expenditures, are projected to reach more than $900 billion over the next decade, Haider said in an announcement. "As we, collectively in the healthcare industry, work to systematically address the rising cost of healthcare, reducing emergency surgeries for common procedures provides a significant opportunity that must be seriously and thoughtfully considered," he said. "Strategically aligning primary care, screening programs and other interventions could be an impactful way to both improve outcomes and reduce costs."

In addition to the three procedures Haider and his team analyzed, a February study found providers could significantly reduce costs by taking steps to avoid five low-value emergency surgical procedures for patients who are not at high risk, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the announcement