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Prevention of Emergency Surgery Saves Lives and Money

Elective procedures tend to be less costly, and safer

MONDAY, Dec. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Strategies to reduce the number of emergency surgeries in the United States could save up to $1 billion in health care costs over a decade, according to a new study published online Dec. 17 in the Annals of Surgery.

The researchers looked at three common operations for the study: aortic aneurysm repair, coronary artery bypass graft, and colon resection. Data for 621,925 patients, all having one of these procedures between 2001 and 2010, were analyzed. The researchers compared the hospital costs and mortality risk when surgeries were planned versus when they were performed in an emergency.

Emergency surgery was 53 percent more expensive for colon resection than elective surgery. Emergency procedures were 30 percent more expensive for abdominal aortic aneurysm repair and 17 percent more expensive for coronary artery bypass graft, the researchers found. People who had planned surgery also had lower mortality rates than patients who had emergency procedures.

"The costs of surgical care represent nearly 30 percent of total health care expenditures and they are projected to total more than $900 billion by 2025," study author Adil Haider, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in a hospital news release. Haider was at the Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research at Johns Hopkins University while conducting the study. "If 10 percent of these emergency surgeries had been performed electively, the cost difference would have been nearly $1 billion over 10 years," Haider said. "Importantly, elective procedures are better for patients, too, who experience lower rates of mortality and better outcomes. There is a tremendous opportunity to both save lives and decrease costs."

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