Regionalization of hospital caseloads may decrease mortality rates in pediatric surgeries

Torrance, Calif. (March 8, 2002) - Harbor-UCLA Research & Education Institute (REI) announced new study findings that may play a pivotal role in reducing the number of deaths that occur during pediatric cardiac surgery. Study results conclude that regionalization the rationalization of resource allocation, especially for highly specialized medical services or technologies -- of pediatric cardiac surgery is associated with a reduction in surgical mortality.

Investigators used a refined simulation model to learn that of 6,592 children from 20 California-based hospitals who underwent cardiac surgeries between 1995 and 1997, 83 deaths could have been avoided when all patients from low-and medium-volume hospitals were referred to high-volume hospitals. The results of the study, conducted by Ruey-Kang R. Chang, MD, MPH and his collaborator, Thomas S. Klitzner, MD, PhD at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine, were recently published in Pediatrics.

In California alone, 4,000 children are born every year with some form of heart disease, up to half of whom need open heart surgery, said Dr. Chang. This is an interesting study that looks at the effect of regionalization on outcomes of pediatric heart surgery, and has the potential to influence how policies are made for organizing services for children with heart disease. Although regionalization is associated with an important decrease in the number of deaths, it also increases the travel distance for many patients. Additional studies on the costs and benefits of regionalization are needed to determine the best strategies to improve outcomes for children who undergo cardiac surgery, he added.

Adam Jonas, Chair, department of pediatrics, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center cited the importance of this study. Health care studies tend to be concerned with specifics of diagnosis and treatment. However, the systems through which medical services are provided also may have a major impact

Contact: Barbara Kerr
Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed)

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