Is Our Effort Appropriately Valued? An Analysis of Work Relative Value Units in Immediate Breast Reconstruction

Andres F. Doval, Andrew C. Gratzon, Virginia Neese, John W. Shuck, Jeffrey Friedman, Anthony Echo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The work relative value units system was developed as a quantifier of physician labor, technical skill, and training time required to complete surgical procedures. Thus, more complex surgical procedures that require greater technical skills and are more time consuming should yield a greater compensation. It is known that prosthetic breast reconstruction reimburses more per hour than autologous breast reconstruction. However, there are limited data comparing work relative value units and operative times in breast reconstruction procedures. Therefore, this study aims to compare mean operative times and work relative value units per minute across three different modalities of breast reconstruction.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis of the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database was performed to identify all patients undergoing implant-, pedicle-, and free flap-based reconstruction over a 6-year period. Calculation and comparison of median operative times, work relative value units, and dollars per minute was performed.

RESULTS: A total of 3135 patients were included in the analysis: 2249 (71.7 percent) underwent immediate implant-based reconstruction, 745 (23.8 percent) underwent immediate free flap-based breast reconstruction, and 141 (4.5 percent) underwent immediate pedicle flap-based reconstruction. Patients were distributed in unilateral and bilateral cases. Consistently, median operative time was greater for free flap breast reconstruction, followed by pedicle flap- and implant-based reconstruction (p < 0.0001). However, work relative value units per minute and dollars per minute were found to be higher for prosthetic reconstruction in all comparisons (p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSION: In the authors' analysis, more complex and time-consuming procedures resulted in a lower reimbursement in dollars and work relative value units per minute for the procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-508
Number of pages7
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Breast Neoplasms/surgery
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty/methods
  • Mastectomy/methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Operative Time
  • Postoperative Complications/prevention & control
  • Quality Improvement
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Time Factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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