Descriptive Analysis of 30-Day Readmission After Inpatient Surgery Discharge in the Veterans Health Administration

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IMPORTANCEFor the first time to our knowledge, this study analyzes and reports the 30-day all-cause readmission rates for surgical procedures performed in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).OBJECTIVETo analyze and report 30-day all-cause readmission rates following discharge from 9 surgical specialties in the VHA for a 10-year period.DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTSIn a retrospective observational study, Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program data for surgery records and VHA administrative discharge data were linked to evaluate all-cause readmission within 30 days of discharge from the surgical inpatient stay. The study population represents 9 surgical specialty groups: general, urology, neurosurgery, orthopedic, otolaryngology, plastic, thoracic, peripheral vascular, and cardiac. Trends of postoperative hospital admission rates for each surgery were investigated using 10 years (fiscal years 2001-2010; N = 894 943) of linked data.MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURESAll-cause 30-day readmission after surgery for each specialty.RESULTSDuring the 10-year period, the overall 30-day all-cause readmission rate following inpatient surgery discharge significantly decreased from 12.9% to 12.2% (P < .001). Unadjusted readmission rates varied by surgical specialty: general, 12.5%; urology, 9.0%; neurosurgery, 10.5%; orthopedic, 9.6%; otolaryngology, 9.5%; plastic, 12.2%; thoracic, 14.4%; peripheral vascular, 16.0%; and cardiac, 16.6%. The following specialties were found to have a significant decline in readmission rates: orthopedic (P = .004), otolaryngology (P = .005), plastic (P = .02), thoracic (P = .04), peripheral vascular (P < .001), and cardiac (P = .003). Postoperative hospital length of stay in individual specialties decreased during this period (each P < .05) except for thoracic and cardiac surgery, which remained unchanged. Readmission diagnoses varied by specialty; postoperative infection was the most common readmission diagnosis in 7 specialties and the second most common in the other 2 specialties (urology and thoracic). Urinary tract infection and digestive system complications were also common readmission diagnoses.CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCEThis retrospective observational study showed decreasing 30-day readmission rates associated with a decline in postoperative hospital length of stay for 9 surgical specialties in the VHA during a 10-year period. Further study will be required to capture data from patients who had surgery at a VHA facility but were readmitted in the private sector.

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