The mechanism by which greater institutional case volume translates into improved outcomes after surgical clipping of unruptured intracranial aneurysms (UIAs) is not well established. The authors thus aimed to assess the effect of case volume on the rate of various types of complications after clipping of UIAs.
Using information on the outcomes of inpatient admissions for surgical clipping of UIAs collected within a national database, the relationship of institutional case volume to the incidence of different types of complications after clipping was investigated. Complications were subdivided into different categories, which included all complications, ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, medical complications, infectious complications, complications related to anesthesia, and wound complications. The relationship of case volume to different types of complications was assessed using linear regression analysis. The relationships between case volume and overall complication and stroke rates were fit with both linear and quadratic equations. The numerical cutoff for institutional case volume above and below which the authors found the greatest differences in mean overall complication and stroke rate was determined using classification and regression tree (CART) analysis.
Between October 2012 and September 2015, 125 health care institutions reported patient outcomes from a total of 6040 cases of clipping of UIAs. On linear regression analysis, increasing case volume was negatively correlated to both overall complications (r2 = 0.046, p = 0.0234) and stroke (r2 = 0.029, p = 0.0557) rate, although the relationship of case volume to the complication (r2 = 0.092) and stroke (r2 = 0.067) rate was better fit with a quadratic equation. On CART analysis, the cutoff for the case number that yielded the greatest difference in overall complications and stroke rate between higher- or lower-volume centers was 6 cases/year and 3 cases/year, respectively.
Although the authors confirm that increasing case volume is associated with reduced complications after clipping of UIAs, their results suggest that the relationship between case volume and complications is not necessarily linear. Moreover, these results indicate that the effect of case volume on outcome is most evident between very-low-volume centers relative to centers with a medium-to-high volume.