News: 10% of deaths after surgery could have been prevented, study says

September 5, 2008

Besides the obviously heavy toll that preventable post-surgery deaths take on patients and their families, the mistakes also have a high cost to insurers and employers.

About 10 percent of deaths that occurred within 90 days after surgery may have been preventable, according to newly released findings. Besides the obvious devastation to patients and their families, mistakes take a toll on employers too. Eventually, employers (and patients) absorb the additional fees that health-care insurers get stuck with when complications arise. For instance, insurers pay an additional $28,218 (52 percent more) and an extra $19,470 (48 percent more) for surgery patients who suffer from acute respiratory failure or post-op infections, respectively, compared with patients who experience no complications. These estimates, from the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, are based on a nationwide sampling of 161,000 patients ages 18 to 64 who were covered by an employer-based health plan and underwent surgery in 2001 and 2002.