Endoscopists who performed endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) at high-volume centers had a 60% greater odds of procedure success compared with those at low-volume centers, according to the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis.

High-volume endoscopists also had a 30% lower odds of performing ERCP that led to adverse events such as pancreatitis, perforation, and bleeding, reported Rajesh N. Keswani, MD, MS, of Northwestern University, Chicago, and his associates. High-volume centers themselves also were associated with a significantly higher odds of successful ERCP (odds ratio, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.6 to 2.5), although they were not associated with a significantly lower risk of adverse events, the reviewers wrote. The study was published in the December issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.06.002 ).

Diagnostic ERCP has fallen sevenfold in the past 30 years while therapeutic use has increased 30-fold, the researchers noted. Therapeutic use spans several complex pancreaticobiliary conditions, including chronic pancreatitis, malignant jaundice, and complications of liver transplantation. This shift from diagnostic to therapeutic has naturally increased the complexity of ERCP, the need for expert endoscopy, and the potential risk of adverse events. “As health care continues to shift toward rewarding value rather than volume, it will be increasingly important to deliver care that is effective and efficient,” the reviewers wrote. “Thus, understanding factors associated with unsuccessful interventions, such as a failed ERCP, will be of critical importance to payers and patients (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017 Jun 7;218:237-45).

Therefore, they searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane register of controlled trials for prospective and retrospective studies published through January 2017. In all, the researchers identified 13 studies that stratified outcomes by volume per endoscopist or center. These studies comprised 59,437 procedures and patients. Definitions of low volume varied by study, ranging from less than 25 to less than 156 annual ERCPs per endoscopist and from less than 87 to less than 200 annual ERCPs per center. Endoscopists who achieved this threshold were significantly more likely to perform successful ERCPs than were low-volume endoscopists (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.2 to 2.1), and were significantly less likely to have patients develop pancreatitis, perforation, or bleeding after ERCP (OR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.5 to 0.8).

“Given these compelling findings, we propose that providers and payers consider consolidating ERCP to high-volume endoscopists and centers to improve ERCP outcomes and value,” the reviewers wrote. Minimum thresholds for endoscopists and centers to maintain ERCP skills and optimize outcomes have not been defined, they noted. Intuitively, there is no “critical volume threshold” at which “outcomes suddenly improve,” but the studies in this analysis used widely varying definitions of low volume, they added. It also remains unclear whether a low-volume endoscopist can achieve optimal outcomes at a high-volume center, or vice versa, they said. They recommended studies to better define procedure success and the appropriate use of ERCP in therapeutic settings.

One reviewer acknowledged support from the University of Colorado Department of Medicine Outstanding Early Career Faculty Program. The reviewers reported having no conflicts of interest.


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