Impact of Gastrointestinal Surgical Site Wound Complications on Long-term Healthcare Utilization

Academic Article


  • Importance: Wound complication following gastrointestinal surgery substantially impacts the quality and costs of surgical care. The impact of wound complication on subsequent long-term healthcare utilization has not been fully studied. Objective: We assessed the impact of surgical wound complication on inpatient and outpatient healthcare utilization in the 2 years after gastrointestinal (GI) surgery. Design: An observational retrospective cohort study was conducted on Veterans Affairs health system patients who underwent an inpatient GI surgical procedure, were assessed by the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP), and were discharged alive from Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2014. Setting: Population-based Participants: A total of 64,351 patients underwent a GI surgical procedure in the VA system between 2007 and 2014. The cohort was 93.5% male, with a median age of 63.0 years (interquartile range (IQR) 57.0–70.0). A total of 7880 patients (12.2%) had at least one reported wound complication, 5460 of which had their postoperative wound complication classified by a VASQIP nurse. Exposure: VASQIP-assessed or ICD-9-coded wound complication in the 30 days after surgery Main Outcome Measurements: Inpatient visits, total inpatient days, outpatient visits, and emergency department visits, and operative interventions up to 2 years after discharge from index admission Results: Patients with a postoperative wound complication had greater inpatient healthcare utilization compared with no-wound complication for up to 2 years after surgery: inpatient admissions (mean number 3.5 vs. 2.8; P <.001), inpatient bed days (mean 41.0 vs. 25.0; P <.001). Patients with a postoperative wound complication also had greater 2-year outpatient utilization than the no-wound complication cohort: outpatient visits (mean number 92.7 vs. 75.9; P <.001) and emergency department visits (mean 3.5 vs. 2.7; P <.001). The same relationship held for wound-related parameters; inpatient admissions (2.2 vs. 0.4; P <.001); inpatient bed days (21.4 vs. 3.7; P <.001); and outpatient visits (56.2 vs. 9.7; P <.001). A greater proportion of patients in the wound complication cohort had an operative intervention for all time intervals examined (P <.001). Conclusions: Surgical wound complications impact healthcare utilization patterns for up to 2 years after the index procedure including hospital readmissions and operative interventions; efforts to reduce postoperative wound complications will have substantial effects on patient outcomes and healthcare expenditures well beyond the 30-day postoperative period.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Sambare TD; Graham LA; Itani KMF; Morris MS; Moshrefi S; Hawn MT
  • Start Page

  • 503
  • End Page

  • 511
  • Volume

  • 25
  • Issue

  • 2