The Associations of Hospital Volume, Surgeon Volume, and Surgeon Experience with Complications and 30-Day Rehospitalization after Free Tissue Transfer: A National Population Study

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Greater provider volume is associated with better outcomes. There is, however, a paucity of evidence on volume-outcome associations for surgical complications and 30-day all-cause rehospitalization after free tissue transfer or free flap surgery. Surgical complications and frequent rehospitalization are important quality indicators that substantially hinder appropriate health care spending. The authors hypothesized that increased provider volume and surgeon experience are associated with lower complication and hospital readmission rates.


The authors conducted a retrospective cohort study of adults aged 18 to 64 years who underwent free tissue transfer. They examined 100 percent of all free tissue transfers between 2001 and 2012 using Taiwan’s national data, and used regression modeling to examine associations between volume and outcome. All models were adjusted for patient, surgeon, and hospital characteristics.


Seventeen percent of free tissue transfer operations (4201 of 25,327) had complications. Infection was the most prevalent after free tissue transfer (70 percent), and the 30-day rehospitalization rate was approximately 20 percent. Hospital volume was associated with a small decrease in complications (OR, 0.99; 95 percent CI, 0.99 to 0.99; p < 0.01). For surgeons, years of experience and not annual case volume decreased surgical complications (OR, 0.98; 95 percent CI, 0.97 to 0.99; p = 0.01). The authors did not find any association between hospital or surgeon volume, or surgeon’s years of experience and 30-day rehospitalization.


Higher-volume hospitals and more experienced surgeons were shown to have a lower likelihood of postsurgery complications. Hospital process and structure affect outcomes and reduce surgical complications. Reducing 30-day rehospitalization may require payment reform, as it demands coordinated care before and after hospital discharge.


Therapeutic, III.

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