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Quicker Referral for Gallbladder Operation Could Save 50 Percent of Preoperative Treatment Charges
Date:10/14/2009

Delays contribute to unnecessary ER visits and additional imaging services

CHICAGO, Oct. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Getting patients to the operating room more quickly could cut by half the amount paid for hospital treatment of painful gallstones, researchers reported today at the 2009 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons. According to a study of 383 patients who underwent surgical treatment for gallstones at the University of North Carolina in 2008, the average hospital charge of $5,292 could be reduced by 50 percent if patients had only two preoperative visits to primary care physicians or the emergency department and one clinical imaging study. Researchers found that patients on average had more than four visits to a primary care physician, emergency department, or surgical clinic and nearly three imaging studies, including ultrasound, computed tomography, or a nuclear medicine scan of the liver, gallbladder, biliary tract, and small intestine, from the time they first showed symptoms of gallbladder disease to the time of the operation.

The researchers concluded that delays in obtaining surgical care of symptomatic gall-stones resulted in unnecessary visits to the emergency department for pain relief and additional diagnostic imaging. "I don't want to say that physicians are managing gallbladder disease in the wrong way, but we and other researchers are trying to find a better way, particularly in the current climate of trying to improve the quality and reduce the cost of care. As surgeons, we're hopeful that patients will be referred to us earlier and go the OR sooner rather than come back for more visits and more imaging studies. It just costs more money, and the patient has to go through more pain and waiting in the emergency department. So once the diagnosis of symptomatic gallstones has been made, we believe patients should see a surgeon who can make the determination of when they need to go to the
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SOURCE American College of Surgeons
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