Surgical volume standards not linked to better outcomes for some procedures, study finds

Hospitals' adherence to surgical volume standards does not always correlate with better patient outcomes, suggest the findings of a study published in JAMA Surgery.

For the study, researchers analyzed Medicare claims data on 516,392 patients who underwent pancreatic, esophageal, rectal or lung resection for cancer between 2005 and 2016. Researchers looked at patients' mortality and complication rates in relation to whether hospitals met The Leapfrog Group's surgical volume standards.

There was no statistically significant difference in mortality rates between hospitals that did and did not meet surgical volumes for esophageal, lung and rectal cancer resections. For pancreatic resections, the mortality rate was consistently lower at hospitals that met volume standards.

Researchers noted surgical volume still plays an important role in patient safety. When researchers compared the hospitals that performed the most surgeries to those that performed the least, they found large differences in patient outcomes.

"These findings highlight important tradeoffs between setting effective volume thresholds and practical expectations for hospital adherence and patient access to centers that meet those standards," researchers concluded.

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