K. J. Hardy, H. Miller, J. McNeil, A. Shulkes

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Because of reduced health care funding it is becoming necessary for surgeons to take a greater interest in the costs of individual operations. This study reports costs directly measurable to the patient, and also the indirect costs of hospital overheads, an operating suite and teaching, which were 37, 10 and 15%, respectively (62%), of hospital budget. A scheme has been developed which could give surgeons a standard to report direct costs. Pre‐admission, ward, operating room, recovery, intensive care and post‐admission are defined as cost periods and the modalities of staff, equipment (capital, maintenance and replacement), imaging, laboratory and consumables apply to each. This strategy was applied to assess open cholecystectomy (OC) and laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) as an example. The direct costs for OC were $3706 and LC $2868, a difference of $838; the indirect and direct costs were OC $6004 and LC $4646, a difference of $1358. Thus indirect cost magnified the difference between the operations. Bed stay, density of nursing and use of disposable instruments were the major influences on direct costs. The individual cost advantage of a shorter bed stay may be countervailed by an increased hospital activity. The main patient benefit of new operations may be improved quality of life and more rapid return to work with prevention of salary losses. A method has been developed to define costs of a particular surgical operation with the purpose of stimulating surgeons' interest in this topic and developing a common style of reporting. This method should help clinicians dealing with hospital finances and waiting lists. Indirect costs are a hidden substantial cost of surgery. Considerably more attention needs to be paid to indirect costs in controlling surgical budgets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-611
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994


  • cholecystectomy
  • direct
  • indirect
  • surgical costs

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