Association of Hospital Costs With Complications Following Total Gastrectomy for Gastric Adenocarcinoma

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Postoperative complications are associated with increased hospital costs following major surgery, but the mechanism by which they increase cost and the categories of care that drive this increase are poorly described.


To describe the association of postoperative complications with hospital costs following total gastrectomy for gastric adenocarcinoma.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This retrospective analysis of a prospectively collected gastric cancer surgery database at a single National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer center included all patients undergoing curative-intent total gastrectomy for gastric adenocarcinoma between January 2009 and December 2012 and was conducted in 2015 and 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Ninety-day normalized postoperative costs. Hospital accounting system costs were normalized to reflect Medicare reimbursement levels using the ratio of hospital costs to Medicare reimbursement and categorized into major cost categories. Differences between costs in Medicare proportional dollars (MP $) can be interpreted as the amount that would be reimbursed to an average hospital by Medicare if it paid differentially based on types and extent of postoperative complications.


In total, 120 patients underwent curative-intent total gastrectomy for stage I through III gastric adenocarcinoma between 2009 and 2012. Of these, 79 patients (65.8%) were men, and the median (interquartile range) age was 64 (52-70) years. The 51 patients (42.5%) who underwent an uncomplicated total gastrectomy had a mean (SD) normalized cost of MP $12 330 (MP $2500), predominantly owing to the cost of surgical care (mean [SD] cost, MP $6830 [MP $1600]). The 34 patients (28.3%) who had a major complication had a mean (SD) normalized cost of MP $37 700 (MP $28 090). Surgical care was more expensive in these patients (mean [SD] cost, MP $8970 [MP $2750]) but was a smaller contributor to total cost (24%) owing to increased costs from room and board (mean [SD] cost, MP $11 940 [MP $8820]), consultations (mean [SD] cost, MP $3530 [MP $2410]), and intensive care unit care (mean [SD] cost, MP $7770 [MP $14 310]).

Conclusions and Relevance

Major complications were associated with tripled normalized costs following curative-intent total gastrectomy. Most of the excess costs were related to the treatment of complications. Interventions that decrease the number or severity of postoperative complications could result in substantial cost savings.

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