How Hospitals Can Reduce Complications in Heart Surgery Patients

Posted by Heart Hugger on Aug 23, 2018 11:31:00 AM

surgeon and surgical team

Complications after heart surgery are bad news for patients, but also for hospitals. Wound complications in a patient can be devastating financially for hospitals, especially when handling Medicare and co-morbid patients. The cost to hospitals can range from $13,000 to $100,000 per complication. Then add on the financial penalties that hospitals face for having excessive readmissions according to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. It’s evident that there is a great need to reduce the chances of complications following a patient’s surgery.

A Proven Solution to Reduce Complications

Over the years, Heart Hugger has proven to be a viable and effective solution to reduce complications in heart surgery patients. Heart Hugger helps reduce the risk of complications by keeping patients on the clinical pathway to recovery. Patients are better able to manage their pain and complete their physical therapy- a necessary step to recovery and avoidance of complications.

A study was done at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston- Salem, North Carolina on how Heart Hugger successfully reduced sternal dehiscence and infections. At the time, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center performed over 800 cardiac surgeries annually, and 4% of all cardiac surgery-related admissions were attributed to sternal wound dehiscence and/or infections.

One of the most significant factors contributing to sternal complications is patient’s noncompliance with precautions following heart surgery. These include:

  • Supporting the sternum when deep breathing and coughing
  • Avoiding lifting more than 10 pounds or pushing or pulling objects

To improve compliance with high-risk patients, the cardiothoracic surgery team introduced the use of sternal support harnesses. A control group was created that had high-risk characteristics and the sternal devices were placed on them immediately after extubation. Patients were then asked about their pain levels and device compliance throughout their stay.

Overall, patients reported decreased pain, increased compliance with sternal precautions, and increased mobility with the use of the sternal support harness. The patients were instructed to use the device for three to four weeks after discharge. Final follow-up was completed at the time of the postoperative visit with the surgeon.

Among 19 patients randomized to the sternal support device group, 2 were readmitted with sternal wound infections. The average length-of-stay was three days. In the control group, 4 of 19 patients were readmitted with wound infections. LOS ranged from three weeks to three months. Based on these findings, the sternal support harness was approved by the hospital’s Product Evaluation Committee. It is now used for all high-risk patients. The cost of the harness, even with the added cost of the Surgi Support Vest, as a solution for infection and dehiscence prevention is far less than what the medical center risked by not using it.

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Written by Heart Hugger

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