Background: Obstetrical anesthesia services may be provided by Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), anesthesiologists, or a combination of the two providers. Research is needed to assist hospitals and anesthesia groups in making cost-effective staffing choices.
Objectives: To identify differences in the rates of anesthetic complications in hospitals whose obstetrical anesthesia is provided solely by CRNAs compared to hospitals with only anesthesiologists.
Methods: Washington State hospital discharge data were obtained from 1993 to 2004 for all cesarean sections, and were merged with a survey of hospital obstetrical anesthesia staffing. Anesthetic complications were identified via International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) diagnosis codes. Resulting rates were risk-adjusted using regression analysis.
Results: Hospitals with CRNA-only staffing had a lower rate of anesthetic complications than those with anesthesiologist staffing (0.58% vs. 0.76%, p =.0006). However, after regression analysis, this difference was not significant (odds ratio for CRNA vs. anesthesiologist complications: 1.046 to 1, 95% confidence interval 0.649-1.658, p =.85).
Discussion: There is no difference in rates of complications between the two types of staffing models. As a result, hospitals and anesthesiology groups may safely examine other variables, such as provider availability and costs, when staffing for obstetrical anesthesia. Further study is needed to validate the use of ICD-9-CM codes for anesthesia complications as an indicator of quality.