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AHRQ: Surgical Admissions Bring 48% of Hospital Revenue

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 4, 2014

Although 29% of all U.S. hospitalizations in 2011 included a surgical procedure, hospitalizations that involved surgery accounted for nearly half of all hospital costs, says a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

A survey of 2011 hospital costs finds that heart valve procedures were the most expensive operations performed in U.S. hospitals followed by coronary artery bypass procedures, small bowel resections, and cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator procedures.

Based on aggregated costs, however, spinal fusion surgeries drove in the most hospital revenue because of their higher cost per hospital stay and frequency, followed by knee arthroplasty, and percutaneous coronary angioplasty.

In fact, although 29% of all 38.6 million U.S. hospitalizations in 2011 included a surgical procedure, hospitalizations that involved surgery accounted for 48% of $387 billion in hospital costs.

These are findings from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's recent 2011 update of its 2007 report on hospital costs published in 2010, or what payers paid on average for those procedures. The report is part of the AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project or H-Cup periodic reports on healthcare trends.

The recently published 2011 statistical brief found that hospital stays that included surgery were 2.5 times more expensive as stays for treatment of medical conditions without surgery. Surgical stays were longer, and were more likely to be elective rather than emergent, and were less likely to involve patients with extremely severe illnesses.

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