Readmission and return to operating room after surgery are increasingly being used as a proxy for quality of care. Nearly 60% of these readmissions are unplanned, which translates into billions of dollars in health care costs. The authors set out to analyze the incidence of readmission at their center, to define causes of unplanned readmission, and to determine the preoperative and surgical variables associated with readmissions following pediatric neurosurgery.
A total of 536 children who underwent operations for neurosurgical diagnoses between 2012 and 2015 and who were later readmitted were included in the final analysis. Unplanned readmissions were defined to have occurred as a result of complications within 90 days after index surgery. Patient records were retrospectively reviewed to determine the primary diagnosis, surgery indication, and cause of readmission and return to operating room. The cost for index hospitalization, readmission episode, and total cost were derived based on the charges obtained from administrative data. Bivariate and multivariable analyses were conducted.
Of 536 patients readmitted in total, 17.9% (n = 96) were readmitted within 90 days. Of the overall readmissions, 11.9% (n = 64) were readmitted within 30 days, and 5.97% (n = 32) were readmitted between 31 and 90 days. The median duration between discharge and readmission was 20 days (first quartile [Q1]: 9 days, third quartile [Q3]: 36 days). The most common reason for readmission was shunt related (8.2%, n = 44), followed by wound infection (4.7%, n = 25). In the risk-adjusted multivariable logistic regression model for total 90-day readmission, patients with the following characteristics: younger age (p = 0.001, OR 0.886, 95% CI 0.824–0.952); “other” (nonwhite, nonblack) race (p = 0.024, OR 5.49, 95% CI 1.246–24.2); and those born preterm (p = 0.032, OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.1–4.12) had higher odds of being readmitted within 90 days after discharge. The total median cost for patients undergoing surgery in this study cohort was $11,520 (Q1: $7103, Q3: $19,264). For the patients who were readmitted, the median cost for a readmission episode was $8981 (Q1: $5051, Q3: $18,713).
Unplanned 90-day readmissions in pediatric neurosurgery are primarily due to CSF-related complications. Patients with the following characteristics: young age at presentation; “other” race; and children born preterm have a higher likelihood of being readmitted within 90 days after surgery. The median cost was > $8000, which suggests that the readmission episode can be as expensive as the index hospitalization. Clearly, readmission reduction has the potential for significant cost savings in pediatric neurosurgery. Future efforts, such as targeted education related to complication signs, should be considered in the attempt to reduce unplanned events. Given the single-center, retrospective study design, the results of this study are primarily applicable to this population and cannot necessarily be generalized to other institutions without further study.