If you undergo surgery at a busier hospital that cranks out a high volume of operations, you may be more likely to have a speedy recovery, a new study says.
The study, which focused on colon surgeries, defined a successful recovery as being able to go about daily activities independently after the surgery. Being able to return to normal action is just as important as surviving the actual procedure and not having any life-threatening complications, Dr. Daniel Anaya, the senior author of the study, told Reuters.
“Our goal is to identify what the high-volume hospitals are doing differently from other hospitals that lead to improved outcomes,” lead author Dr. Courtney J. Balentine, from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told Reuters. “Once we figure out why some hospitals do better than others, we can help every hospital adopt the practices that really work so that all patients get the best outcomes no matter where they have the operation.”
The researchers analyzed over 1,000 U.S. hospitals, grouping them into three tiers based on how many colon surgeries were performed at each in 2008. The highest-ranked hospitals were called “high-volume,” considered the busiest. Colon surgery included procedures done for colon cancer as well as for polyps — growths in the colon — or blocked colons.
Out of the 280,000 patients involved in the study, three quarters of them received colon surgery at high-volume hospitals; they were often younger, had higher incomes and were more likely to have private insurance compared to those who had surgery at low-volume hospitals. At busy hospitals, 86 percent of colon surgery patients were sent straight home after the procedure. This was a sign that these patients were able to recover more quickly than those at lower-volume hospitals, which sent 76 percent of patients home after surgery.
Regardless of where your surgery is completed, it's important to be prepared — and to know who will be taking care of you post-operation. Talking to your doctor about diet, smoking, and other lifestyle habits before a surgery may make a big difference in mitigating potential complications. "Examples of things to do include stop smoking and increase activity and exercise," Dr. Farhood Farjah, associate medical director of the Surgical Outcomes Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Reuters. "Also, patients should consider what support they have in terms of family and friends in the event that they need care when they go home."
However, Farjah thinks that patients shouldn’t choose surgeons based on where they work. “Just because your surgeon works at a hospital that doesn’t do many colorectal procedures, it doesn’t mean that your surgeon isn’t qualified or won’t do a good job,” he said. “We just showed that, overall, hospitals with higher volumes of colorectal surgeries tend to produce better outcomes, in regards to the postoperative recovery process.”