Operating room procedures account for nearly half of hospitals' treatment costs

Research Activities, March 2011, No. 367

Although only a quarter of patient stays in U.S. hospitals in 2007 involved procedures that were conducted in operating rooms, such stays accounted for 47 percent of hospitals' costs. This totalled $161 billion for patients receiving procedures, according to a new study by researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that was published in the December 2010 issue of the Archives of Surgery.

The researchers found that one-third of the 15 million operating room procedures that year involved people aged 65 and older and that older patients were two to three times more likely to undergo surgery than younger patients. Surgical patients tended to be less severely ill than non-surgical patients, but their daily cost was double—$2,900 versus $1,400 a day. Fifteen procedures accounted for half of hospitals' costs for surgical patient stays and one-quarter of overall hospital costs. Four of the most expensive procedures—angioplasty, cesarean section delivery, knee replacement, and spinal fusion—increased in volume by between 20 percent and 46 percent between 1997 and 2007, while heart bypass surgery plummeted by 70 percent. More than half of all procedures were elective.

According to the study authors, Anne Elixhauser, Ph.D., and Roxanne M. Andrews, Ph.D., the findings highlight the important role that inpatient surgical procedures play in U.S. health care. The study is based on data in AHRQ's Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays in short-term, nonfederal hospitals, which includes all patients, regardless of their type of insurance, as well as the uninsured.

You can obtain a free copy of the article "Profile of Inpatient Operating Room Procedures in U.S. Hospitals in 2007" (Publication No. 11-R023), by sending an E-mail to AHRQPubs@ahrq.hhs.gov.

Current as of March 2011
Internet Citation: Operating room procedures account for nearly half of hospitals' treatment costs: Research Activities, March 2011, No. 367. March 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/mar11/0311RA32.html