Craniotomy for resection of pediatric brain tumors in the United States, 1988 to 2000: effects of provider caseloads and progressive centralization and specialization of care

Edward R Smith, William E Butler, Fred G Barker
Neurosurgery 2004, 54 (3): 553-63; discussion 563-5

OBJECTIVE: Large provider caseloads are associated with better patient outcomes after many complex surgical procedures. Mortality rates for pediatric brain tumor surgery in various practice settings have not been described. We used a national hospital discharge database to study the volume-outcome relationship for craniotomy performed for pediatric brain tumor resection, as well as trends toward centralization and specialization.

METHODS: We conducted a cross sectional and longitudinal cohort study using Nationwide Inpatient Sample data for 1988 to 2000 (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD). Multivariate analyses adjusted for age, sex, geographic region, admission type (emergency, urgent, or elective), tumor location, and malignancy.

RESULTS: We analyzed 4712 admissions (329 hospitals, 480 identified surgeons) for pediatric brain tumor craniotomy. The in-hospital mortality rate was 1.6% and decreased from 2.7% (in 1988-1990) to 1.2% (in 1997-2000) during the study period. On a per-patient basis, median annual caseloads were 11 for hospitals (range, 1-59 cases) and 6 for surgeons (range, 1-32 cases). In multivariate analyses, the mortality rate was significantly lower at high-volume hospitals than at low-volume hospitals (odds ratio, 0.52 for 10-fold larger caseload; 95% confidence interval, 0.28-0.94; P = 0.03). The mortality rate was 2.3% at the lowest-volume-quartile hospitals (4 or fewer admissions annually), compared with 1.4% at the highest-volume-quartile hospitals (more than 20 admissions annually). There was a trend toward lower mortality rates after surgery performed by high-volume surgeons (P = 0.16). Adverse hospital discharge disposition was less likely to be associated with high-volume hospitals (P < 0.001) and high-volume surgeons (P = 0.004). Length of stay and hospital charges were minimally related to hospital caseloads. Approximately 5% of United States hospitals performed pediatric brain tumor craniotomy during this period. The burden of care shifted toward large-caseload hospitals, teaching hospitals, and surgeons whose practices included predominantly pediatric patients, indicating progressive centralization and specialization.

CONCLUSION: Mortality and adverse discharge disposition rates for pediatric brain tumor craniotomy were lower when the procedure was performed at high-volume hospitals and by high-volume surgeons in the United States, from 1988 to 2000. There were trends toward lower mortality rates, greater centralization of surgery, and more specialization among surgeons during this period.

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