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Privately Insured Prostate Surgery Patients Fare Better

Study finds higher complication rates among Medicare, Medicaid patients.

Published: September 27, 2011

Among 61,167 men who had their prostates removed to treat cancer, those with private insurance had fewer complications from surgery and were less likely to die in the hospital, according to a study.

The study, which based its findings on a government database collecting information from hospitals in 40 states, found that men covered by Medicare or Medicaid were more likely to need a blood transfusion to treat blood loss. Almost 8% and 11%, respectively, had a transfusion, compared with just more than 5% of men with private insurance. Medicare and Medicaid patients' overall risk of surgical complications was also higher, researchers reported.

After surgery, 13% of Medicare patients had a complication such as heart or breathing problems or incontinence. Researchers found that just fewer than 10% of men with private insurance experienced some type of post-surgery complication. Few men examined by the study died, but the risk was higher for those on Medicaid, 0.3% of whom died in the hospital.

The reasons for the findings cannot be pinned down, but studies designed to identify the specific processes responsible for the reported disparities are "urgently needed," says Quoc-Dien Trinh, MD, a urologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Mich., and the study's lead researcher.

"At the end of the day," he said, "it is hard to decipher the root causes of this effect, but it is very real and has significance as we approach changes to the healthcare system in the coming years."

Mark McGraw

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