Researchers at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn) have identified risk factors for unplanned readmissions following esophageal resection, according to a study presented at the 96th American Association for Thoracic Surgery Annual Meeting.

The results of their new study provide complete follow-up data for all patients undergoing esophagectomy at a high volume center over a one-year period in order to identify risk factors associated with unplanned readmissions.

Unplanned readmissions are important because they impact a patient’s quality of life and slow recovery after surgery. Furthermore, the CMS (Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services) through their Hospital Readmissions Reduction program can reduce reimbursement payments to hospitals with “excess readmission.”

“Careful collection of data regarding patient outcomes, including unplanned hospital readmissions, is essential to improve the quality of patient care since national databases can leave gaps in data regarding follow up of these patients by failing to identify all readmissions or emergency department visits patients may make after their surgery,” said Karen J. Dickinson, MD.

For this reason, the Mayo Clinic Thoracic Surgery Research Team contacts every patient undergoing esophagectomy at their institution. This system allowed the team to accurately describe the incidence of unplanned readmissions following esophagectomy over the 12-month study period and investigate the associated risk factors in an effort to develop and implement strategies to improve patient care.

The researchers looked at patient demographics, co-morbidities, the distance each patient lived from the hospital, and surgical factors. They collected data about postoperative complications and discharge information. An international study group (Esophagectomy Complications Consensus Group, ECCG) determined the importance of recording all readmissions that occur in the first 30 days after esophagectomy in order to provide information about the care each institution is providing their patients. Details were collected about the timing of any readmissions in all patients who survived to thirty days.

The investigators found that the readmission rate for all esophagectomies was 19% (approx. 1 in 5 patients) of 84 patients who were followed. Most readmissions occurred to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, MN (88%) and the most common reasons for readmission were respiratory and gastrointestinal complications.

Risk factors that were associated with unplanned readmissions in patients having esophagectomy were longer operations (p<0.01), postoperative admission to the Intensive Care Unit (p=0.02) and blood transfusion around the time of surgery (p=0.02). “These findings will allow surgeons to identify frail patients using preoperative scoring systems to try to ensure that patients are as healthy as possible before surgery and reduce the likelihood of ICU stay. Complicated surgery may be associated with more blood loss and, therefore, should be carefully planned and carried out,” commented Dr Stephen D. Cassivi, MD MSc, thoracic surgeon and senior investigator of the Mayo Clinic study.

This study shows that even in a high-volume center, with specialization in esophageal and foregut surgery, readmission after esophagectomy is not uncommon. Identifying risk factors will allow surgeons to target patients preoperatively to try to prevent readmissions and complications before they occur.