Background Emergency general surgery (EGS) contributes to half of all surgical mortality nationwide, is associated with a 50% complication rate, and has a 15% readmission rate within 30 days. We assessed associations between surgeon and hospital EGS volume with these outcomes. Study Design Using Maryland's Health Services Cost Review Commission database, we identified nontrauma EGS procedures performed by general surgeons among patients 20 years or older, who were admitted urgently or emergently, from July 2012 to September 2014. We created surgeon and hospital volume categories, stratified EGS procedures into simple (mortality ≤ 0.5%) and complex (>0.5%) procedures, and assessed postoperative mortality, complications, and 30-day readmissions. Multivariable logistic regressions both adjusted for clinical factors and accounted for clustering by individual surgeons. Results We identified 14,753 procedures (61.5% simple EGS, 38.5% complex EGS) by 252 (73.3%) low-volume surgeons (≤25 total EGS procedures/year), 63 (18.3%) medium-volume surgeons (26 to 50/year), and 29 (8.4%) high-volume surgeons (>50/year). Low-volume surgeons operated on one-third (33.1%) of all patients. For simple procedures, the very low rate of death (0.2%) prevented a meaningful regression with mortality; however, there were no associations between low-volume surgeons and complications (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.07; 95% CI 0.81 to 1.41) or 30-day readmissions (aOR 0.80; 95% CI 0.64 to 1.01) relative to high-volume surgeons. Among complex procedures, low-volume surgeons were associated with greater mortality (aOR 1.64; 95% CI 1.12 to 2.41) relative to high-volume surgeons, but not complications (aOR 1.06; 95% CI 0.85 to 1.32) or 30-day readmission (aOR 0.99; 95% CI 0.80 to 1.22). Low-volume hospitals (≤125 total EGS procedures/year) relative to high-volume hospitals (>250/year) were not associated with mortality, complications, or 30-day readmissions for simple or complex procedures. Conclusions We found evidence that surgeon EGS volume was associated with outcomes. Developing EGS-specific services, mentorship opportunities, and clinical pathways for less-experienced surgeons may improve outcomes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas