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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard Finds Surgical Complications are Top Reason for Hospital Readmissions

Problems related to surgery — mostly from surgical wound infections — are the most common reason that people wind up readmitted to the hospital, according to a new study. Patient safety expert Dr. Lucian Leape says such complications are a significant problem that causes much pain and suffering.

Dr. Leape, adjunct professor of health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote about surgical complications — and how to reduce them — in a February 3 JAMA (Journal of the New England Medical Association) editorial accompanying the study.

The study, which looked at 500,000 operations in the U.S., found a nearly 6 percent overall hospital readmission rate in 2012, mostly attributable to surgical complications. The most frequent complication — infections from surgical wounds — occurred in about 5,500 patients. But nationwide the total number of these infections “is probably 20 to 30 times higher than that: 111,000 to 167,000,” Dr. Leape told HealthDay. “Cutting that in half, which I believe is possible, would eliminate pain and suffering in tens of thousands of people every year.”

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