Langenbeck's Archives of Surgery

, Volume 394, Issue 1, pp 31–39 | Cite as

Impact of clinical pathways in surgery

  • Markus K. Müller
  • Konstantin J. Dedes
  • Daniel Dindo
  • Stefan Steiner
  • Dieter Hahnloser
  • Pierre-Alain Clavien
Original Article



One strategy to reduce the consumption of resources associated to specific procedures is to utilize clinical pathways, in which surgical care is standardized and preset by determination of perioperative in-hospital processes. The aim of this prospective study was to establish the impact of clinical pathways on costs, complication rates, and nursing activities.


Data was prospectively collected for 171 consecutive patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy (n = 50), open herniorrhaphy (n = 56), and laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (n = 65).


Clinical pathways reduced the postoperative hospital stay by 28% from a mean of 6.1 to 4.4 days (p < 0.001), while the 30-day readmission rate remained unchanged (0.5% vs. 0.45%). Total mean costs per case were reduced by 25% from € 6,390 to € 4,800 (p < 0.001). Costs for diagnostic tests were reduced by 33% (p < 0.001). Nursing hours decreased, reducing nursing costs by 24% from € 1,810 to € 1,374 (p < 0.001). A trend was noted for lower postoperative complication rates in the clinical pathway group (7% vs. 14%, p = 0.07).


This study demonstrates clinically and economically relevant benefits for the utilization of clinical pathways with a reduction in use of all resource types, without any negative impact on the rate of complications or re-hospitalization.


Clinical pathways Cost reduction Surgery 


Competing interest statements

Nothing to disclose

Role of funding source

No funding


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markus K. Müller
    • 1
  • Konstantin J. Dedes
    • 1
  • Daniel Dindo
    • 1
  • Stefan Steiner
    • 1
  • Dieter Hahnloser
    • 1
  • Pierre-Alain Clavien
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryUniversity Hospital ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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