Background

In 2015, the American College of Surgeons began its Children’s Surgery Verification Quality Improvement Program, promulgating standards intended to promote regionalization and improve pediatric surgical care. It was hypothesized that pediatric surgical care was already highly regionalized and concentrated before implementation of the program. This study aimed to demonstrate this by describing the sites and volume of nonambulatory pediatric surgery.

Methods

A two-part, retrospective, cross-sectional analysis was performed. First, six all-encounter state inpatient data sets (Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, and New York from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project and Massachusetts from the Center for Health Information) were used to evaluate all procedures performed within specific hospitals in 2014. Next, a national sample data set (2016 Kids’ Inpatient Database) was used to determine the generalizability of the single state results. All acute care hospital admissions for patients less than 18 yr of age were included to describe the nature and location of all surgical procedures therein by patient age, surgical specialty, procedure type, and hospital service breadth.

Results

Within the six study states, there were 713 hospitals, of which 635 (89.1%) admitted patients less than 18 yr old, and 516 (72.4%) reported pediatric procedures. Among these, there were 9 specialty hospitals and 39 hospitals with services comparable to independent children’s hospitals. Of 153,587 procedures among 1,065,655 pediatric admissions, 127,869 (83.3%) took place within these 48 centers. This fraction decreased with age (89.9% of patients less than 2 yr old and 68.5% of 15- to 17-yr-olds), varied slightly by specialty, and was similar across states. Outside of specialized centers, teenagers accounted for 47.4% of all procedures. Within the national data sample, the concentration was similar: 8.7% (328 of 3,777) of all hospitals admitting children were responsible for 90.1% (793,905 of 881,049) of all procedures, with little regional variation.

Conclusions

Before the American College of Surgeons Children’s Surgery Verification Quality Improvement Program, the vast majority of pediatric nonambulatory surgeries were already confined to a small subset of high-capability and specialty centers.

Editor’s Perspective
What We Already Know about This Topic
  • Pediatric hospital care in the United States has been naturally consolidating.

  • In 2015, the American College of Surgeons launched its Children’s Surgery Verification Quality Improvement Program to promote regionalization and improve the quality of pediatric surgical care.

What This Article Tells Us That Is New
  • Before the start of the American College of Surgeons Children’s Surgery Verification Quality Improvement Program, pediatric surgical care was highly concentrated, with less than 7% of hospitals responsible for more than 80% of procedures. Nearly half of all pediatric procedures undertaken outside of these centers involved teenagers.

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