Authors: Tuggle CT, Park LS, Roman S, Udelsman R, Sosa JA
Title: Rehospitalization among elderly patients with thyroid cancer after thyroidectomy are prevalent and costly.
Journal: Ann Surg Oncol 17(11):2816-23
Date: 2010 Nov
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Thyroid cancer increases in incidence and aggressiveness with age. The elderly are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Reducing rates of rehospitalization would lower cost and improve quality of care. This is the first study to report population-level information characterizing rehospitalization after thyroidectomy among the elderly. METHODS: The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare-linked database was used to identify patients older than aged 65 years with thyroid cancer who underwent thyroidectomy from 1997-2002. Patient and hospital characteristics were studied to predict the risk of rehospitalization. Outcomes were 30-day unplanned rehospitalization rate, cost, and length of stay (LOS) of readmission. RESULTS: Of 2,127 patients identified, 69% were women, 84% had differentiated thyroid cancer, and 52% underwent total thyroidectomy. Mean age was 74 years. A total of 171 patients (8%) underwent 30-day unplanned rehospitalization. Rehospitalization was associated with increased comorbidity, advanced stage, number of lymph nodes examined, increased LOS of index admission, and small hospital size (all P < 0.05). Patients with a complication during index hospital stay were more likely to be readmitted (P < 0.001), whereas patients who saw an outpatient medical provider after index discharge returned less frequently (P < 0.001). Forty-seven percent of readmissions were for endocrine-related causes. Mean LOS and cost of rehospitalization were 3.5 days and $5,921, respectively. Unplanned rehospitalization was associated with death at 1 year compared with nonrehospitalized patients (18% vs. 6%; P < 0.001). DISCUSSION: Rehospitalization among Medicare beneficiaries with thyroid cancer after thyroidectomy is prevalent and costly. Further study of predictors could identify high-risk patients for whom enhanced preoperative triage, improved discharge planning, and increased outpatient support might prove cost-effective.