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More than a quarter of Australia’s 8.9 million hospitalisations in 2010–11 included a visit to an operating room for surgery, according to a new surgery snapshot released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The snapshot bulletin, Surgery in Australian Hospitals 2010–11, provides an overview of Australia’s 2.4 million annual hospitalisations for surgery, based on data first published by the AIHW in April.

Around 1.0 million surgery hospitalisations occurred in public hospitals and 1.4 million in private hospitals.

In the five years to 2011, admissions involving surgery have been rising 2.4% a year in public hospitals and 4.1% a year in private hospitals. But in the last year, annual growth in surgery admissions in public hospitals has outstripped annual growth in private hospitals 2.7% to 2.1%.

‘This probably reflects a renewed emphasis by all levels of government to reduce elective surgery backlogs in public hospitals’, said AIHW spokesperson Alison Verhoeven.

Around 12% of surgery admissions were emergency admissions (requiring surgery within 24 hours). About 83% were elective admissions, with two-thirds of these occurring in private hospitals. A further 4% of surgery-related admissions were childbirth-related and 1% were for ‘other planned care’. 

Compared with national rates, Indigenous Australians and people living in remote areas had higher rates of emergency surgery admissions and lower rates of elective surgery admissions.

The most common reasons for emergency surgery admission were appendicitis, hip fractures and heart attacks, followed closely by leg fractures.

For elective surgery admissions, the most common reasons were cataracts, skin cancers, knee disorders and procreative management (including IVF).

Just over 50% of surgery hospitalisations were same-day admissions. For overnight surgery admissions, the average length of stay was around 4 days in public hospitals and 3 days in private hospitals.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare.

Canberra, 5 July 2012 2012 

Further information: Ms Alison Verhoeven, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1089, mob. 0403 282 501

Full snapshot: Surgery in Australian Hospitals 2010–11