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Study Finds SSIs the Best Predictor of Surgical Readmissions

More than half of patients with SSIs return to hospital within 30 days.

Published: February 19, 2014

Researchers have singled out surgical site infections as the surgical complication that makes hospital readmission after surgery most likely. For a study published online by JAMA Surgery, researchers from the Birmingham (Ala.) Veterans Administration Hospital and the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that more than half of the patients who suffer surgical site infections return to the hospital for treatment within 30 days of their procedure.

When researchers reviewed data on 59,273 arthroplasty, colorectal, gynecological and vascular surgeries performed at 112 VA hospitals between January 2005 and August 2009, they found that the overall 30-day readmission rate was 11.9%. But 55.7% of the patients who'd contracted SSIs ended up back in the hospital. In contrast, only 8.7% of patients with respiratory complications were readmitted.

In timing the incidence of complications and readmissions, the researchers aimed to point out flaws in how quality is frequently measured. They note that, since more than 25% of post-op complications aren't diagnosed until after patients leave a surgical facility, "hospital discharge is an insufficient end point for quality assessment."

The team has previously questioned the effectiveness of on-time antibiotics and Surgical Care Improvement Program measures on SSI prevention.

David Bernard

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