Hospital volume and failure to rescue after head and neck cancer surgery

Carolyn L. Mulvey, Peter J. Pronovost, Christine G. Gourin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective. To investigate the relationship between hospital volume and mortality, complications, and failure-to-rescue rates among patients undergoing head and neck cancer (HNCA) surgery. Study Design. Cross-sectional analysis. Setting. Nationwide Inpatient Sample. Subjects and Methods. Discharge data for 159,301 patients who underwent an ablative procedure for a malignant oral cavity, laryngeal, hypopharyngeal, or oropharyngeal neoplasm from 2001 to 2010 were analyzed using cross-tabulations and multivariate regression modeling. Failure to rescue was defined as death after a major complication, including acute myocardial infarction, acute renal failure, venous thromboembolism, pneumonia, gastrointestinal bleed, pulmonary failure, hemorrhage, or surgical site infection. We compared the incidence of mortality, major complications, and failure-to-rescue rates across hospital volume tertiles. Results. The majority of hospitals performing HNCA surgery were low-volume hospitals, which performed a mean of 6 HNCA cases per year (n = 7635). Intermediate-volume hospitals performed a mean of 37 cases per year (n = 729), and high-volume hospitals performed a mean of 131 cases (n = 207). High-volume hospital care was associated with significantly decreased odds of death (odds ratio, 0.56; 95% confidence interval, 0.46-0.86) and failure to rescue (odds ratio, 0.56; 95% confidence interval, 0.33-0.97) compared to lowvolume hospital care. However, there was no significant difference in major complication rates between patients undergoing HNCA surgery at high-volume hospitals and those at low-volume hospitals. Conclusion. Patients with HNCA who receive care at highvolume hospitals compared with low-volume hospitals have a 44% lower odds of mortality, which appears to be associated with differences in the response to and management of complications rather than differences in complication rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-789
Number of pages7
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 9 2015


  • Nationwide Inpatient Sample
  • complications
  • failure to rescue
  • hospital volume
  • mortality
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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