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Is there evidence of a July effect among patients undergoing hysterectomy surgery?

      Background

      It is hypothesized that the quality of health care decreases during trainee turnovers at the beginning of the academic year. The influx of new gynecology and surgery residents into hospitals in this setting may be associated with poorer surgical outcomes, known as the July effect.

      Objective

      We sought to systematically study hysterectomy outcomes in the state of Maryland during the 3-month period July through September as compared to all other months of the academic year, in order to assess for the presence of a July effect in hysterectomy surgery.

      Study Design

      This is a retrospective study of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission Database from July 2012 through September 2015 focused on women undergoing hysterectomies for benign or malignant disease, either by obstetricians and gynecologists or gynecologic oncologists, during July through September vs October through June. Multivariable logistic regressions accounted for clustering by hospitals and adjusted for several cofactors. The primary outcome includes at least 1 of 11 major perioperative in-hospital complications; the secondary outcomes were extended postoperative length of stay (defined as >2 days) and 30-day inpatient readmission rates.

      Results

      We identified 6311 hysterectomies (78.2% benign) performed by 424 surgeons at 20 academic hospitals. Patients were primarily white (42.8%), 45–64 years old (54.4%), and had private insurance (66.3%). The unadjusted rate of in-hospital complications was 16.8%, extended length of stay was 30.3%, and 30-day readmissions was 6.6%. After adjustment, patients undergoing hysterectomies during July through September did not have more adverse outcomes relative to those undergoing surgery at other times of the year: complications (adjusted odds ratio, 0.87; 95% confidence interval, 0.75–1.01), length of stay >2 days (adjusted odds ratio, 1.03; 95% confidence interval, 0.90–1.19), and 30-day readmissions (adjusted odds ratio, 0.99; 95% confidence interval, 0.80–1.23). Sensitivity analyses assessing individual complications, hysterectomy outcomes at nonacademic hospitals, and benign vs malignant indications for hysterectomies yielded similar findings.

      Conclusion

      Women in Maryland undergoing hysterectomy surgery at academic hospitals during July through September of the academic year did not experience worse outcomes relative to women having surgery in other months. Additional studies are necessary to further assess the possibility of a July effect in hysterectomy on a national basis. Institutions should continue to provide effective surgical training environments for new interns and residents transitioning to more senior roles, while maintaining optimal patient safety.

      Key words

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