Does practice make perfect? The impact of hospital and surgeon volume on complications after intra-abdominal procedures

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Background: There is increasing interest in the regionalization of surgical procedures. However, evidence on the volume-outcome relationship for emergency intra-abdominal surgery is not well-synthesized. This systematic review and meta-analysis summarize evidence regarding the impact of hospital and surgeon volume on complications.
Methods: We identified cohort studies assessing the impact of hospital/surgeon volume on postoperative complications after emergency intra-abdominal procedures, with data collected after the year 2000 through a literature search without language restriction in the PubMed, Web of Science, and Cochrane databases. A weighted overall complication rate was calculated, and a random effect regression model was used for a summary odds ratio. A sensitivity analysis with the removal of studies contributing to heterogeneity was performed (PROSPERO: CRD42022358879).
Results: The search yielded 2,153 articles, of which 9 cohort studies were included and determined to be good quality according to the Newcastle Ottawa Scale. These studies reported outcomes for the following procedures: cholecystectomy, colectomy, appendectomy, small bowel resection, peptic ulcer repair, adhesiolysis, laparotomy, and hernia repair. Eight studies (2,358,093 patients) with available data were included in the meta-analysis. Low hospital volume was not significantly associated with higher complications. In the sensitivity analysis, low hospital volume was significantly associated with higher complications when appropriate heterogeneity was achieved. Low surgeon volume was associated with higher complications, and these findings remained consistent in the sensitivity analysis.
Conclusion: We found that hospital and surgeon volume was significantly associated with higher complications in patients undergoing emergency intra-abdominal surgery when appropriate heterogeneity was achieved.


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