Volume-outcome association in pediatric hospitals needs more data

Pediatric hospitals may have trouble determining the degree to which hospital volume and surgeon experience affect outcomes, such as length of stay, complications and mortality.

That's because insufficient, varied data involving children's surgery complicates efforts to differentiate between patient outcomes affected by surgeon experience and those more affected by hospital resources, according to a report published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

Extensive research has consistently shown a link between hospital and surgeon factors and adult patient outcomes, MedPage Today noted. However, after reviewing 63 studies involving pediatric patients, researchers from Seattle Children's Hospital found limited consistency in quantity and quality of outcome data, the article noted.

More than half (51 percent) of the studies yielded positive volume-outcome correlations for pediatric surgery while 27 percent produced mixed results, MedPage noted.

"In general, hospital-level factors tended to correlate with outcomes for high-complexity procedures, whereas surgeon-level factors tended to correlate with outcomes for more common procedures," the report states.

Some pediatric hospitals like Children's Healthcare of Atlanta track their own volumes and outcomes and compare that data to their peers to help ensure high-quality care. For more than 38,000 surgeries a year, less than 0.5 percent of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta patients experience complications during surgery, according to the pediatric hospital's website.

Recent research has highlighted volume-outcome relationships for adult surgery patients: For example, head and neck cancer patients who received care at high-volume hospitals were 15 percent less likely to die than those treated at low-volume hospitals, according to a study published this month in the journal Cancer.

Meanwhile, a January study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology concluded surgeon volume independently influences survival after esophageal cancer surgery and that surgeons with more experience should perform the procedure.

For more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the MedPage article
- check out the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta website