Quality of Surgical Care Within the Criminal Justice Health Care System

Rui Min D. Mao, Taylor P. Williams, V. Suzanne Klimberg, Ravi S. Radhakrishnan, Abe DeAnda, Alexander Perez, John P. Walker, William J. Mileski, Douglas S. Tyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

IMPORTANCE Individuals who are incarcerated represent a vulnerable group due to concerns about their ability to provide voluntary and informed consent, and there are considerable legal protections regarding their participation in medical research. Little is known about the quality of surgical care received by this population. OBJECTIVE To evaluate perioperative surgical care provided to patients who are incarcerated within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and compare their outcomes with that of the general nonincarcerated population. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This cohort study analyzed data from patients who were incarcerated within the TDCJ and underwent general or vascular surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) from 2012 to 2021. Case-specific outcomes for a subset of these patients and for patients in the general academic medical center population were obtained from the American College of Surgeons National Quality Improvement Program (ACS-NSQIP) and compared. Additional quality metrics (mortality index, length of stay index, and excess hospital days) from the Vizient Clinical Data Base were analyzed for patients in the incarcerated and nonincarcerated groups who underwent surgery at UTMB in 2020 and 2021 to provide additional recent data. Patient-specific demographics, including age, sex, and comorbidities were not available for analysis within this data set. MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURES Perioperative outcomes (30-day morbidity, mortality, and readmission rates) were compared between the incarcerated and nonincarcerated groups using the Fisher exact test. RESULTS The sample included data from 6675 patients who were incarcerated and underwent general or vascular surgery at UTMB from 2012 to 2021. The ACS-NSQIP included data (2012-2021) for 2304 patients who were incarcerated and 602 patients who were not and showed that outcomes were comparable between the TDCJ population and that of the general population treated at the academic medical center with regard to 30-day readmission (6.60% vs 5.65%) and mortality (0.91% vs 1.16%). However, 30-day morbidity was significantly higher in the TDCJ population (8.25% vs 5.48%, P =.01). The 2020 and 2021 data from the Vizient Clinical Data Base included 629 patients who were incarcerated and 2614 who were not and showed that the incarcerated and nonincarcerated populations did not differ with regard to 30-day readmission (12.52% vs 11.30%) or morbidity (1.91% vs 2.60%). Although the unadjusted mortality rate was significantly lower in the TDCJ population (1.27% vs 2.68%, P =.04), mortality indexes, which account for case mix index, were similar between the 2 populations (1.17 vs 1.12). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Findings of this cohort study suggest that patients who are incarcerated have equivalent rates of mortality and readmission compared with a general academic medical center population. Future studies that focus on elucidating the potential factors associated with perioperative morbidity and exploring long-term surgical outcomes in the incarcerated population are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-184
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA Surgery
Volume159
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 14 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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