WASHINGTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Hospitals with a higher volume of transcatheter aortic valve replacements (TAVRs) have significantly lower 30-day readmission rates, according to an observational study.

In a study of 129 hospitals, those that performed more than 100 TAVR procedures had a 24% and 25% lower readmission rate compared with hospitals that performed 50 to100 TAVRs (P less than .001) and hospitals that performed fewer that 50 TAVRs (P = .007) respectively (JAMA Cardiol. 2017 May 11. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2017.1630 ).

This finding could have serious financial and medical implications for hospitals that are deciding whether or not to focus on this minimally invasive procedure, according to Sahil Khera, MD, MPH, chief resident and cardiology fellow at New York Medical College, Valhalla, and his colleagues.

“Lower readmission rates at high-volume hospitals substantially reduce health care expenditure,” said Dr. Khera and colleagues. “As new TAVR programs open across the country, these data will guide policymakers to identify targets for optimizing and standardizing TAVR outcomes across hospitals.”

To study the correlation between TAVR procedures and readmission rates, the investigators gathered records on hospitals that performed at least five TAVRs in 2014, which were then categorized into high-, medium-, or low-volume categories, and cross-referenced with the 2014 Nationwide Readmissions Database.

Of the 16,252 TAVR procedures conducted in 2014, 663 (4%), 3,067 (19%), and 12,522 (77%) were performed at low-, medium-, and high-volume hospitals, respectively, according to the investigators.

Patients undergoing these procedures were on average 81 years of age, with an average of four Elixhauser comorbidities, most commonly dyslipidemia (64%), hypertension (80%), heart failure (75%), and known coronary artery disease (69%), with a majority having undergone an endovascular procedure (83%).

However, the researchers found the population of TAVR patients of high volume hospitals were slightly younger, had fewer women, were more likely to be in a higher income household, and were less likely to undergo a transapical procedure than in low volume hospitals, which Dr. Khera and fellow researchers believe may have some impact on their findings.

“Low-volume hospitals were more likely to operate on patients with a higher number of comorbidities compared with high-volume hospitals and were more likely to use the TA approach,” according to investigators, “Transapical TAVR is associated with poorer short- and intermediate-term mortality, increased use of skilled nursing care facilities, longer hospital stays, and readmissions when compared with transfemoral TAVR.”

Overall, there were 2,667 readmissions reported, among which high volume hospitals reported a 30-day readmission rate of 15.6%, while low- and medium-volume hospitals reported similarly higher rates of 19.5% and 19%.

When looking into the causes for these readmissions, the investigators found that 1,619 (61%) were due to noncardiac causes, which appeared in all three hospitals, despite a larger proportion present in low-volume hospitals as opposed to medium and high-volume hospitals (65.6% vs. 60.1% and 60.6%, respectively).

“Infection, respiratory, endocrine/metabolic, renal, and trauma problems were more common in low-volume hospitals,” according to the researchers. “Whereas gastrointestinal and TIA/stroke issues were more common in medium and high volume hospitals.”

While price and length of stay did not differ among the volume categories, the investigators estimate the lower rate of readmissions saved high-volume hospitals approximately $6.5 million.

They found that while the difference of readmissions between hospital classifications narrowed when controlling for experience, the margin was still significant. They admitted, however, that the possibility of greater access to more technologically advanced TAVR in high-volume hospitals may affect the findings.

This study was limited by administrative nature of the database used, which does not make available information such as valve type, patient risk scores, or medications.

One investigator has received personal fees from Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic; another has received grants and personal fees from various pharmaceutical companies, educational institutions, and publications; and a third has consulted for Medtronic.

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