FRIDAY, Aug. 10, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to general hospitals, specialty orthopedic hospitals serve a healthier population of Medicare patients, a new study finds.
"We suspected that specialty orthopedic hospitals were selecting low-risk patients for admission, and that is what our analysis found," lead author Dr. Peter Cram, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, said in a prepared statement.
"But we also found that complications were less common in specialty hospitals even after accounting for the types of patients each hospital admitted -- this was quite surprising," Cram added.
The findings are published in the August issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
The researchers, from the University of Iowa and the Department of Veterans Affairs Iowa City Health Care System, found that Medicare patients who received hip or knee replacement at specialty orthopedic hospitals were about 40 percent less likely to suffer post-surgery complications than Medicare patients at general hospitals.
The study involved an analysis of the records of more than 150,000 Medicare patients age 65 and older who received either total hip or total knee replacement surgery between 1999 and 2003 at 38 specialty orthopedic hospitals and 517 general hospitals.
But Cram added that the findings should be interpreted with caution.
"While our study provides new information on the quality of care in specialty hospitals, it is important that these findings be replicated in populations other than Medicare patients and using other approaches to measure complications than claims data," he said.
"In addition, our study focused on surgical complications and did not analyze other important markers such as patient satisfaction, costs and symptom relief," he said.
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about joint replacement.