Non-surgery hospitals see higher costs for heart procedures

Hospitals without heart surgery backup might want to think twice before providing elective angioplasty because they have higher costs than hospitals that do have backup services, according to new study presented Sunday at an American Heart Association scientific meeting.

With prior research showing that hospitals without on-site cardiac surgery capability can perform non-emergency angioplasty with no greater risk of death or complications, those hospitals are increasingly offering elective angioplasty in house instead of transferring patients to other hospitals equipped with surgical backup, the study noted.

Despite similar clinical outcomes, the study found that non-surgery hospitals cannot perform those procedures at a similar cost. In fact, surgery-equipped hospitals had average cumulative medical costs of $23,991, compared to $25,460 at non-surgery hospitals.

"There is no guarantee that a community hospital can provide angioplasty services at costs comparable with those of major hospitals with on-site cardiac surgery," lead author Eric L. Eisenstein, assistant professor of medicine and community and family medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., said in a statement.

The cost gap stemmed from higher room costs and the fact that patients treated at hospitals without surgical backup were more likely to bounce back to the facility nine months after treatment.

Meanwhile, as more hospitals develop heart surgery centers, the industry may see more elective heart surgeries performed. A May study from University of Michigan's Center for Health Research suggested the supply of catheterization labs is directly proportional to percutaneous coronary interventions.

For more:
- read the American Heart Association statement