Hospital Operative Volume and Esophagectomy Outcomes in the Veterans Affairs System

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The Journal of surgical research






Database; Esophagectomy; Hospital-volume; Mortality; Outcomes


INTRODUCTION: Previous studies reported that increased hospital case volume improves outcomes after esophagectomy. Yet, the standard for high and low-volume hospitals varies in the literature. This study attempts to define the relationship between hospital operative volume and 30-day post-operative outcomes of esophagectomy in the Veterans Affairs (VA) system. METHODS: This is a retrospective review of patients that underwent esophagectomy from 2008 to 2019 utilizing the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program Database. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis quantified an inflection point of optimal association between 30-day morbidity and mortality by facility volume. This point was used to separate cohorts for comparison of outcomes using 1:1 propensity score matching (PSM) to account for confounding covariates. RESULTS: Two thousand two hundred and twelve esophagectomies were performed from 2008 to 2019 and ROC analysis identified an inflection point at 43 cases (4 cases/y) where bidirectional operative volume significantly affected outcomes. Subsequent PSM resulted in 1718 cases utilized for analysis (n = 859 per cohort). Facility volume ≥4 cases/y was significantly associated with decreased odds of 30-day mortality (odds ratio(OR) = 0.57; P = 0.03), shorter length of stay (median 13 versus 14 d; P = 0.04) and longer operative times (6.5 versus 6.0 h; P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: VA hospitals that averaged ≥4 esophagectomies/y had significantly lower rates of mortality and length of stay. This volume threshold may serve as a benchmark to determine the optimal setting for esophageal resection. However, our findings also may reflect the benefits of cumulative operating room and multidisciplinary team experience at VA centers in conjunction with dedicated surgeons. Future studies should focus on long-term outcomes after esophagectomy in relation to hospital operative volume.