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Rural versus urban inpatient case-mix differences in the US.

VanBibber M, Zuckerman RS, Finlayson SR. Rural versus urban inpatient case-mix differences in the US. Journal of the American College of Surgeons. 2006 Dec 1; 203(6):812-6.

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BACKGROUND: Preparation of surgeons for practice in rural settings is hindered by limited knowledge of case-mix differences between rural and nonrural surgical practices. Although surgical practice in isolated rural areas is believed to be very different from urban practice, little is known about actual inpatient case-mix differences. STUDY DESIGN: We performed a retrospective, descriptive comparison of inpatient general surgical procedures performed at rural versus urban hospitals in the US using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database (2000 to 2001). Rural versus urban geographic designations were based on Rural-Urban Commuting Area codes developed by the Rural Health Research Institute. Inpatient surgical procedures were aggregated by the Clinical Classifications Software based on ICD-9-CM procedure codes. RESULTS: Operations on the bowel, appendix, and gallbladder constitute 61% of general surgical inpatient procedures in rural hospitals, compared with 46% in urban hospitals. Compared with urban general surgery practices, rural practices include substantially fewer operations on the stomach and esophagus (6% versus 11%), liver and pancreas (0% versus 1%), spleen and thyroid (3% versus 10%), and bowel (17% versus 19%). General surgical procedures constitute 42% of inpatient procedures in rural hospitals versus 25% in urban hospitals. A rural general surgeon more broadly trained in selected obstetric and gynecologic operations could potentially perform 66% of all inpatient procedures in rural hospitals. Addition of simple vascular cases (eg, arteriovenous fistula, vascular access), head and neck operations, amputations, and nephrectomies could increase this potential to 71% of all cases. CONCLUSIONS: Rural and urban general surgical inpatient case-mixes differ from each other substantially. Additional competence in a few surgical areas that are not currently emphasized in general surgical training could result in an increased role for general surgeons practicing in rural areas.

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