Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Centralisation of oesophagectomy in Australia: is only caseload critical?

Richard Hummel A , Ngoc Hoang Ha A , Andrew Lord A , Markus I Trochsler A , Guy Maddern A and Harsh Kanhere A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Surgery, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, 8 Woodville Road, Woodville South, SA 5011, Australia. Email: richard.hummel@uksh.de; ngoc.h.ha1@gmail.com; lordsurg@chariot.net.au; Markus.Trochsler@sa.gov.au; guy.maddern@adelaide.edu.au

B Corresponding author. Email: Harsh.Kanhere@sa.gov.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH17095
Submitted: 24 April 2017  Accepted: 3 September 2017   Published online: 16 October 2017

Abstract

Objective High caseload is considered one of the most important factors for good outcomes after high-risk surgeries such as oesophagectomy. However, many Australian centres perform low volumes of oesophagectomies due to demographics. The aim of the present study was to audit outcome after oesophagectomy in an Australian low-volume centre over a period of 13 years and to discuss potential contributors to outcome other than just case volume.

Methods Perioperative and long-term outcomes of all oesophagectomies over a 13-year period in a low-volume Australian tertiary care centre were analysed retrospectively. Data were compared in subgroups of patients in two separate time periods: 2000–05 (n = 23) and 2006–12 (n = 24).

Results There were two perioperative deaths over the entire 13-year period with no postoperative mortality in the last decade. The complication and long-term survival rates for each of the two separate time periods were similar to those from high-volume centres, more so in the second half of the study period.

Conclusions The data suggest that under specific conditions, oesophagectomies can be safely performed even in smaller- or low-volume centres in Australia. The policy of centralisation for these procedures in Australia needs to be carefully tailored to the needs of the population, clinical outcomes, cost-effectiveness and optimal utilisation of existing facilities rather than on caseload alone.

What is known about the topic? High caseload is considered one of the most important factors for good outcomes after oesophagectomy and a driving force behind centralisation of this procedure. However, other factors may also affect outcome – such as availability of experienced surgeons, specialist nurses, interventional radiology, gastroenterology, etc.

What does this paper add? With the availability of appropriate levels of expertise, infrastructure and specialist nursing staff as is the case in most Australian tertiary centres, good perioperative outcomes can be obtained despite low volumes. Case load only should not be used as a surrogate marker of quality.

What are the implications for practitioners? The policy of centralisation for oesophagectomy in Australia needs to be carefully thought out on the basis of population demographics, outcomes and cost-effectiveness, with the appropriate use of existing facilities, rather than on a caseload basis alone.

Additional keywords: oesophagectomy, outcome.


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