study finds rates of childbirth complications vary significantly

When a couple is expecting a child, they compile a checklist that can grow longer with each passing day. In addition to more fun chores like selecting a color for the nursery or creating a registry, the couple also has to make far more important decisions like selecting an OB/GYN and a hospital at which to have the child delivered.

Interestingly, a recently published study in this month’s edition of the medical journal Health Affairs determined that expecting parents will want to give this last point significant consideration as the rates of complications during childbirth can vary significantly among hospitals.

The study, performed by researchers at the University of Rochester, examined 750,000 deliveries at hospitals throughout the U.S., and assigned these facilities a rating of low-, average- or high-performing based on the risk of major complications for patients.

Here, the researchers determined that complication rates during the birthing process can differ dramatically among hospitals, sometimes by up to five times.

To illustrate, consider the following:

  • The study determined that those patients who underwent a cesarean section at low-performing hospitals experienced complications such as infections, clots, bleeding or lacerations at a rate five times higher than patients who underwent a cesarean section at high-performing hospitals.
  • The study determined that those patients who underwent a traditional delivery at low-performing hospitals experienced complications at a rate two times higher than patients who underwent a traditional delivery at high-performing hospitals.

“There is significant variability in maternal outcomes across U.S. hospitals,” said the primary author of the study.

While this may seem like an insurmountable problem, the study authors conclude that there is actually a potential solution, as a national quality reporting system could serve to provide low-performing hospitals with much-needed guidance from high-performing hospitals on what “best practices” are in need of revisiting, something that could help improve patient outcomes.

Indeed, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Anesthesiologists are already working on such a system.

It’s certainly important to know that efforts are underway to help reduce the rates of complications during childbirth at U.S. hospitals. However, it’s also important to know that those women victimized by OB/GYN malpractice or children who suffer birth injuries attributable to medical negligence may have options for securing justice.

Source: Web MD, “Obstetric complication rates in hospitals,” Mary Elizabeth Dallas, Aug. 4, 2014

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