Costs of treating children with complicated pneumonia: a comparison of primary video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery and chest tube placement

Samir S Shah, Thomas R Ten Have, Joshua P Metlay
Pediatric Pulmonology 2010, 45 (1): 71-7

OBJECTIVES: To describe charges associated with primary video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and primary chest tube placement in a multicenter cohort of children with empyema and to determine whether pleural fluid drainage by primary VATS was associated with cost-savings compared with primary chest tube placement.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Administrative database containing inpatient resource utilization data from 27 tertiary care children's hospitals. Patients between 12 months and 18 years of age diagnosed with complicated pneumonia were eligible if they were discharged between 2001 and 2005 and underwent early (within 2 days of index hospitalization) pleural fluid drainage.

MAIN EXPOSURE: Method of pleural fluid drainage, categorized as VATS or chest tube placement.

RESULTS: Pleural drainage in the 764 patients was performed by VATS (n = 50) or chest tube placement (n = 714). There were 521 (54%) males. Median hospital charges were $36,320 [interquartile range (IQR), $24,814-$62,269]. The median pharmacy and radiologic imaging charges were $5,884 (IQR, $3,142-$11,357) and $2,875 (IQR, $1,703-$4,950), respectively. Adjusting for propensity score matching, patients undergoing primary VATS did not have higher charges than patients undergoing primary chest tube placement.

CONCLUSIONS: In this multicenter study, we found that the charges incurred in caring for children with empyema were substantial. However, primary VATS was not associated with higher total or pharmacy charges than primary chest tube placement, suggesting that the additional costs of performing VATS are offset by reductions in length of stay (LOS) and requirement for additional procedures.

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