Costs of complications after colorectal cancer surgery in the Netherlands: Building the business case for hospitals

J. A. Govaert*, M. Fiocco, W. A. van Dijk, A. C. Scheffer, E. J. R. de Graaf, R. A. E. M. Tollenaar, M. W. J. M. Wouters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Healthcare providers worldwide are struggling with rising costs while hospitals budgets are under stress. Colorectal cancer surgery is commonly performed, however it is associated with a disproportionate share of adverse events in general surgery. Since adverse events are associated with extra hospital costs it seems important to explicitly discuss the costs of complications and the risk factors for high-costs after colorectal surgery.Retrospective analysis of clinical and financial outcomes after colorectal cancer surgery in 29 Dutch hospitals (6768 patients). Detailed clinical data was derived from the 2011-2012 population-based Dutch Surgical Colorectal Audit database. Costs were measured uniform in all participating hospitals and based on Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing.Of total hospital costs in this study, 31% was spent on complications and the top 5% most expensive patients were accountable for 23% of hospitals budgets. Minor and severe complications were respectively associated with a 26% and 196% increase in costs as compared to patients without complications. Independent from other risk factors, ASA IV, double tumor, ASA III, short course preoperative radiotherapy and TNM-4 stadium disease were the top-5 attributors to high costs.This article shows that complications after colorectal cancer surgery are associated with a substantial increase in costs. Although not all surgical complications can be prevented, reducing complications will result in considerable cost savings. By providing a business case we show that investments made to develop targeted quality improvement programs will pay off eventually. Results based on this study should encourage healthcare providers to endorse quality improvement efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1059-1067
JournalEuropean Journal of Surgical Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • Colorectal surgery
  • Complications
  • Costs
  • Dutch Surgical Colorectal Audit


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