Factors Associated With the Interhospital Transfer of Emergency General Surgery Patients

Angela Ingraham, Xing Wang, Jeffrey Havlena, Bret Hanlon, Megan Saucke, Jessica Schumacher, Sara Fernandes-Taylor, Caprice Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Transferred emergency general surgery (EGS) patients constitute a highly vulnerable, acutely ill population. Guidelines to facilitate timely, appropriate EGS transfers are lacking. We determined patient- and hospital-level factors associated with interhospital EGS transfers, a critical first step to identifying which patients may require transfer. Methods: Adult EGS patients (defined by American Association for the Surgery of Trauma International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision diagnosis codes) were identified within the 2008-2013 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (n = 17,175,450). Patient- and hospital-level factors were examined as predictors of transfer to another acute care hospital with a multivariate proportional cause-specific hazards model with a competing risk analysis to assess the effect of risk factors for transfer. Results: 1.8% of encounters resulted in a transfer (n = 318,286). Transferred patients were on average 62 y old and most commonly had Medicare (52.9% [n = 168,363]), private (26.7% [n = 84,991]), or Medicaid insurance (10.8% [n = 34,279]). 67.7% were white. The most common EGS diagnoses among transferred patients were related to hepatic-pancreatic-biliary (n = 90,989 [28.6%]) and upper gastrointestinal tract (n = 60,088 [18.9%]) conditions. Most transferred patients (n = 269,976 [84.8%]) did not have a procedure before transfer. Transfer was more likely if patients were in small (hazard ratio 2.52, 95% confidence interval 2.28-2.79) or medium (1.32, 1.21-1.44) versus large facilities, government (1.19, 1.11-1.28) versus private facilities, and rural (4.58, 3.98-5.27) or urban nonteaching (1.89, 1.70-2.10) versus urban teaching facilities. Patient-level factors were not strong predictors of transfer. Conclusions: We identified that hospital-level characteristics more strongly predicted the need for transfer than patient-related factors. Consideration of these factors by providers as care is delivered in the context of the resources and capabilities of local institutions may facilitate transfer decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-200
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency general surgery
  • Interhospital transfers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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