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Impact of postoperative complications on hospital costs following the Norwood operation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 December 2015

Kimberly E. McHugh*
Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, United States of America
Sara K. Pasquali
University of Michigan CS Mott Children’s Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America
Matthew A. Hall
Children’s Hospital Association, Overland Park, Kansas, United States of America
Mark A. Scheurer
Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, United States of America
Correspondence to: K. E. McHugh, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina, 165 Ashley Avenue, MSC 915, Charleston, SC 29425, United States of America. Tel: 843 792 3292; E-mail:



Patients undergoing the Norwood operation consume considerable healthcare resources; however, detailed information regarding factors impacting hospitalisation costs is lacking. We evaluated the association of postoperative complications with hospital costs.


In the present study, we utilised a unique data set consisting of prospectively collected clinical data from the Pediatric Heart Network Single Ventricle Reconstruction trial linked at the patient level with cost data for 10 hospitals participating in the Children’s Hospital Association Case Mix database during the trial period. The relationship between complications and cost was modelled using linear regression, accounting for the skewed distribution of cost, adjusting for within-centre clustering and baseline patient characteristics.


A total of 334 eligible Norwood records (97.5%) were matched between data sets. Overall, 82% suffered from at least one complication (median 2; with a range from 0 to 33). Those with complications had longer postoperative length of stay (25 versus 12 days, p<0.001), more total ventilator days (7 versus 5 days, p<0.001), and higher in-hospital mortality (17.6 versus 3.4%, p<0.006). Mean adjusted hospital cost in those with a complication was $190,689 (95% CI $111,344–$326,577) versus $120,584 (95% CI $69,246–$209,983) in those without complications (p=0.002). Costs increased with the number of complications (1–2 complications=$132,800 versus 3–4 complications=$182,353 versus ⩾5 complications=$309,372 [p<0.001]).


This merged data set of clinical trial and cost data demonstrated that postoperative complications are common following the Norwood operation and are associated with worse clinical outcomes and higher costs. Efforts to reduce complications in this population may lead to improved outcomes and cost savings.

Original Articles
© Cambridge University Press 2015 

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