(HealthDay News) — Surgical site infections (SSIs) are associated with significant excess costs, according to a study published online May 21 in JAMA Surgery.

Marin L. Schweizer, PhD, from the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and colleagues determined the excess costs associated with total, deep, and superficial SSIs among all operations and for high-volume surgical specialties at 129 Veterans Affairs hospitals (54,233 patients) in 2010. Costs for both the index hospitalization and 30-day readmissions were included.

The researchers found that 3.2% of surgical patients (1,756) experienced an SSI (0.8% deep SSI; 2.4% superficial). For patients without an SSI, the mean unadjusted costs were $31,580, compared to $52,620 for patients with an SSI. The relative costs were 1.43 times greater for patients with an SSI versus patients without an SSI (difference, $11,876). The greatest mean cost attributable to SSIs was $23,755 among patients undergoing neurosurgery, followed by patients undergoing orthopedic surgery, general surgery, peripheral vascular surgery, and urologic surgery. If the worst hospitals (in the highest 10th percentile) reduced their SSI rates to the rates of those in the 50th percentile, the Veterans Health Administration would save approximately $6.7 million annually.

“Large potential savings per year may be achieved by decreasing SSI rates,” the authors write.

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