5 Most Common Procedures in US Hospitals

American hospitals reported 38.6 million stays in 2011 and in 24.3 million of those visits, some type of medical procedure was performed (often multiple procedures).

American hospitals reported 38.6 million stays in 2011, according to the US Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) and in 24.3 million of those visits, some type of medical procedure was performed (often multiple procedures).

HCUP annually releases reports on hospital usage and costs, including a list of the most common medical procedures. The most recent year for which data are available is 2011.

The procedures on the list range from diagnostic tests like echocardiograms to surgeries, such as Cesarean Sections and hip replacement. Six of the 20 most frequently performed procedures are associated with pregnancy, childbirth and newborns. Combined, they were responsible for 30% of hospital stays in 2011.

Cardiovascular procedures were also common, accounting for 15% of hospital stays and four of the top 20 procedures.

What follows is a list of the five most commonly performed procedures on the list:

The number of Cesarean Sections in the US shot up 39% between 1997 and 2011, according to the data. About 800,000 C-sections were performed in 1997, a rate of per every 10,000 people. By 2011, 1.27 million Cesareans were being performed every year, 41 per 10,000 people.

Another childbirth-related procedure comes next on the list. An estimated 1.3 million obstetric laceration repairs were performed in 2011. However, unlike C-sections, the rates repairs or obstetric lacerations have remained relatively stable since 1997, up only 1%. Forty-two out of every 10,000 people had the procedure in 2011, the same number as in 1997.

This procedure was barely in the Top 10 back in 1997, but by 2011, it had moved into the third spot. Respiratory intubation and mechanical ventilation was performed 1.6 million times in 2011, up from 919,000 procedures performed in 1997. About 52 out of every 10,000 people received the procedure in 2011, an increase of 57% from 1997.

The fastest-growing procedure in US hospitals is prophylactic vaccinations and inoculations, nearly tripling in the 14 years between 1997 and 2011. Back in 1997, only 567,000 procedures were performed, resulting in 21 hospital stays per 10,000 people. By 2011, 1.86 million prophylactic vaccinations and inoculations were being performed, about 60 per 10,000 people.

The most common procedure is likely no surprise, as it has dwarfed all others in recent years. Blood transfusions were performed 2.9 million times in 2011, up 134% from 1997, when 1.1 million procedures were performed. Transfusions were performed 94 times per 10,000 people in 2011, up from 40 times per 10,000 people in 1997.

All data come from HCUP. The full report is available here.