A study was undertaken to evaluate the utilization rates of routine preoperative electrocardiogram (ECG) and chest x-ray (CXR) by sex, age, and most frequent surgery type, and to estimate the total cost of these screening tests.
We included all patients undergoing elective surgery in Alberta from April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2007, except those with a cancer, trauma, or cardiac diagnosis. The utilization rate was equal to the number of tests divided by the number of elective surgeries. The total cost of the tests was estimated in Canadian dollars under a health care perspective and was equal to the number of tests multiplied by the cost per test.
With utilization rates of 13.4% and 23.2%, routine preoperative ECG and CXR tests cost Alberta about $369,000 and $637,000 over 2 yrs, respectively. More than 80% of the cost was incurred by tests on patients aged 50 or older. The utilization rates of tests vary considerably among the most frequent surgeries, but not between men and women.
Routine preoperative testing rates and costs are relatively low in Alberta. It is possible that general evidence widely disseminated over the past number of years regarding unnecessary routines in preoperative testing has had an effect. Further interventions to reduce them would be of little value.