Complications After Cardiac Surgery Increase Hospital Costs

Armen Hareyan's picture

Major complications following coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, even among patients least at risk of experiencing complications, remain common and add significantly to healthcare costs, while diminishing the benefits of surgery, according to research funded and conducted by Cardiac Data Solutions. The research was published in the June 2008 Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

According to the study, the average cost of a patient undergoing isolated CABG without a perioperative complication in fiscal year 2005 was $29,477. The average incremental cost for a patient suffering one of the seven complications studied was $19,968, and the average length of stay increased from 9 days to 15.9 days.


Although mortality rates associated with CABG continue to decline, 13.64 percent of beneficiaries undergoing isolated CABG in FY 2005, or 15,579 patients, experienced one or more of seven complications studied, resulting in a total incremental annual cost to Medicare of more than $311 million.

Based on current trends, the Medicare Trust Fund is expected to be exhausted by 2019, prompting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to no longer pay for certain avoidable complications, beginning in October of this year.

"Complications after cardiac surgery are costly ... in terms of decreasing the benefit of surgery [and]... greatly increasing the financial burden of providing cardiac surgical care," says Hari Mallidi, MD, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Stanford University, who provided commentary on the research. Dr. Mallidi added that "as CMS attempts to further reduce costs in the future, there may be implications for payment with respect to the noninfectious complications that occur after cardiac surgery. If a concerted effort is made by the hospital to ensure that compliance with evidence-based approaches to decreasing perioperative infections are implemented for every cardiac surgical patient, then a decrease in infection rate might be realized."