Paraesophageal hernia (PEH) repair is a technically challenging operation. These patients are typically older and have more co-morbidities than patients undergoing anti-reflux operations for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and these factors are usually cited as the reason for worse outcomes for PEH patients. Clinically, it would be useful to identify potentially modifiable variables leading to improved outcomes. We performed a retrospective analysis of a representative sample from 37 states, using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database over a 5-year period (2001-2005). Patients undergoing any anti-reflux operation with or without hiatal hernia repair were included, and comparison was made based on primary diagnoses of PEH or GERD. Exclusion criteria were diagnosis codes not associated with reflux disease or diaphragmatic hernia, emergency admissions, and age <18. Primary outcome was in-hospital mortality. Two sets of multivariate analyses were performed; one set adjusting for pre-treatment variables (age, gender, race, Charlson Comorbidity Index, hospital teaching status, hospital volume of anti-reflux surgery, calendar year) and a second set adjusting further for post-operative complications (splenectomy, esophageal laceration, pneumothorax, hemorrhage, cardiac, pulmonary, and thromboembolic events, (VTE)). Of the 23,458 patients, 6,706 patients had PEH. PEH patients are older (60.4 vs. 49.1, p∈<∈0.001) and have significantly more co-morbidities than GERD patients. On multivariate analysis, adjusting for pre-treatment variables, PEH patients are more likely to die and have significantly worse outcomes than GERD patients. However, further adjustment for pulmonary complications, VTE, and hemorrhage eliminates the mortality difference between PEH and GERD patients, while adjustment for cardiac complications or pneumothorax did not eliminate the difference. While PEH patients have worse post-operative outcomes than GERD patients, we note that differences in mortality are explained by pulmonary complications, VTE, and hemorrhage. The impact of hemorrhagic complications on this group underscores the importance of careful dissection. Additionally, age and co-morbidities alone should not preclude a patient from PEH repair; rather, attention should be focused on peri-operative optimization of pulmonary status and prophylaxis of thromboembolic events.
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