Quality assessment measures have not been well developed for pediatric neurosurgical patients. This report documents the authors' experience in extracting information from an administrative database to establish the rate of return to system within 30 days of pediatric neurosurgical procedures.
Demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical characteristics were prospectively collected in administrative, business, and operating room databases. The primary end point was an unexpected return to the hospital system within 30 days from the date of a pediatric neurosurgical procedure. Statistical methods were used to identify clinical and demographic factors associated with the primary end point.
There were 1358 pediatric neurosurgical procedures performed in the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta operating rooms in 2012, with 37.4% of these surgeries being preceded by admissions through the emergency department. Medicare or Medicaid was the payor for 54.9% of surgeries, and 37.6% of surgeries were shunt related. There were 148 unexpected returns to the system within 30 days after surgery, and in 109 of these cases, the patient had a presenting complaint that was attributable to the index surgery (related returns). The most common complaints were headache, nausea, vomiting, or seizure after shunt revision or cranial procedures (n = 62). The next most common reason for re-presentation was for wound concerns (n = 30). Thirty-seven of the 109 related returns resulted in a reoperation. The monthly rate of related returns was 8.1% ± 2.5% over the 12-month study period. When using related returns as the dependent variable, the authors found that patients who underwent a shunt-related surgery were both more likely to unexpectedly return to the system (OR 1.86, p = 0.008) and to require surgery upon readmission (OR 3.28, p = 0.004). Because an extended hospitalization shortened the window of time for readmission after surgery, extended length of stay was protective against return to system within 30 days of surgery. Importantly, if related and unrelated returns were analyzed together as the dependent variable (n = 148), no independent clinical and demographic risk factor could be identified.
Quality assessment measures need to be clearly and carefully defined, as the definition itself will impact the analytical results. Clinicians must play a leading role in the development of these measures to ensure their clinical meaningfulness.