Head and Neck Cancer Patients: Rates, Reasons, and Risk Factors for 30-Day Unplanned Readmission.



To analyze rates, risk factors, and complications for 30-day readmission among head and neck cancer (HNC) patients. Methods Retrospective review of administrative records from Vizient (Irving, Texas) Clinical Data Base/Resource Manager on HNC patients who underwent a head and neck surgical procedure from January 2013 through September 2015 at 176 academic and community medical centers.


Of the 18,121 patients included in the study, 2502 patients were readmitted within 30 days (13.8%). Mean time to readmission was 11 ± 8.2 days. Cancer of the hypopharynx, oropharynx, pharynx, and larynx all had higher odds of readmission compared to oral cavity (odds ratio [OR], 1.8, 1.7, 1.6, and 1.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4-2.2, 1.4-1.9, 1.2-2.3, and 1.3-1.7, respectively). Consistent with this, flap procedures and laryngectomy had the highest odds of readmission (OR, 1.4 and 1.3; 95% CI, 1.3-1.6 and 1.0-1.5 vs glossectomy, respectively). The most common surgical causes for readmission were postoperative infection (17.6%) and surgical wound dehiscence (16.8%), which most commonly presented on postdischarge days 4 to 5. Acute cardiac events occurred in up to 15.4% of patients depending on complexity of surgery. Dysphagia and electrolyte disturbances were common (15.8% and 15.4%, respectively); patients with these complications typically presented earlier, between days 3 and 4. Discussion Patients with HNC are at high risk of readmission. The cancer subsite and procedure significantly influenced the risk, rate, and reason for readmission. Implications for Practice Findings from this study can help quality improvement and patient safety administrators develop interventions that uniquely target HNC populations.