For Some Surgeries, More Is Better When Choosing Hospitals

Release Date: September 1, 2011 | By Katherine Kahn, Contributing Writer
Research Source: Health Services Research


  • Hospitals that perform more aortic aneurysm repairs, heart bypass surgeries or gastric bypass surgeries have fewer patients who experience adverse events.
  • Patients can consult The Leapfrog Group or ask their surgeons or hospitals directly about how many procedures a hospital performs.
  • You might be safer having a high-risk procedure done at a hospital where many such procedures are performed a year.
Follow us on Facebook

Are you scheduled for heart bypass surgery or weight loss surgery? You might want to find out just how frequently different hospitals in your area are performing those procedures before deciding where to go. A new study finds that hospitals with higher surgical volumes for certain procedures are less likely to cause unintentional serious injuries to hospitalized patients when compared to those hospitals that perform the procedures less often.

“We found a linear relationship between hospital volume and patient safety,” said lead author Tina Hernandez-Boussard, Ph.D. “That means that the more procedures these hospitals were performing, the lower rates they would have of adverse events.”

Hernandez-Boussard and colleagues are at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The study appears online in the journal Health Services Research.

The researchers used data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample discharge database, a large national inpatient database. They looked at the rates of nine different adverse events in hospitalized patients following three different high-risk procedures — abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, heart bypass surgery and gastric bypass surgery. Examples of adverse events included blood infections, blood clots after surgery, postoperative bleeding, accidental punctures and death among surgical patients.

The investigators defined low surgical volume as fewer than 28 procedures per year for abdominal aortic aneurysm, fewer than 245 for heart bypass surgery and fewer less than 89 for gastric bypass surgery. In almost all instances, hospitals with higher surgical volume had fewer adverse events than hospitals with low surgical volume.

David Bates, M.D., executive director of the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice and chief of general internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said, “One question has been, what’s the minimum number of cases that a hospital needs to do to be safe? That’s been tricky, because the implication is that below a certain level, hospitals shouldn’t be doing the procedure.” Bates has no affiliation with the study.

“For a procedure that’s high risk, I think it’s important to do it at a place that does sufficient volume so that you have the best chance for a good outcome,” Bates said. In addition to the surgeries included in the study, high-risk procedures include pancreatic cancer surgery, esophageal cancer surgery, complicated birth deliveries and others.

One way that consumers can check how many surgeries a hospital is doing is to consult The Leapfrog Group, a national advocate of health care safety and quality. The group offers a searchable database that allows consumers to compare individual hospitals on patient safety and performance. The database is available online at Patients also can ask their surgeon or hospital directly about surgical procedure volumes.

TERMS OF USE: This story is protected by copyright. When reproducing any material, including interview excerpts, attribution to the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, is required.

#  #  #

For More Information:

Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at (202) 387-2829 or [email protected].

Health Services Research is the official journal of the AcademyHealth and is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. on behalf of the Health Research and Educational Trust.  For information, contact Jennifer Shaw, HSR Business Manager at (312) 422-2646 or [email protected]. HSR is available online at

Hernandez-Boussard T, et al. Relationship between patient safety and hospital surgical volume. Health Services Res online, 2011.

Tags for this article:
Medical/Hospital Practice   Inside Healthcare  

Comments on this article
Please note: CFAH reserves the right to moderate all comments posted to the Health Behavior News Service. Any inappropriate postings will be removed.

No comments have been entered yet.