Relative value units do not adequately account for operative time in pediatric urology

Da David Jiang, Nicholas H. Chakiryan, Kyle A. Gillis, Ann Martinez Acevedo, Yiyi Chen, J. Christopher Austin, Casey A. Seideman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Relative value units (RVUs) are the measure of value used in United States Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. The Relative Update Committee (RUC) determines physician work RVU (wRVUs) based on operative time, technical skill and effort, mental effort and judgment, and stress. The primary aim of this study was to assess whether operative time is adequately accounted for in the wRVU system in pediatric urology. Methods: The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program Pediatric Participant User File (ACS-NSQIPP-PUF) was reviewed from 2012 to 2017. Most common single pediatric urology current procedural terminology (CPT) codes were included. The primary variable was wRVU per hour of operative time (wRVU/h). Linear regression analysis was used to assess the relative influence that operative time had on wRVU/h. Results: 25,432 cases were included in the final study population from 45 unique CPT codes. The median operative time was 79 min, and the median RVU/h was 12.2. Procedures with operative time less than 79 min had higher wRVU/h compared with procedures longer than 79 min (14.5 vs 10.5, p < 0.001). Procedures with higher than average incidence of any complications had a lower wRVU/h (9.0 vs. 14.6 p < 0.001). Linear regression analysis revealed that each additional hour of operative time was expected to decrease wRVU/h by 4.2 (− 0.70 per 10 min, 95% CI: − 0.71 to − 0.69, p < 0.001; R2 = 0.39). Conclusion: This analysis of contemporary large pediatric population national-level data suggests that the wRVU system significantly favors shorter and less complex procedures in Pediatric Urology. Pediatric urologists performing longer and more complex procedures are not adequately compensated for the increase in complexity. Evidence level III: Retrospective comparative study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-887
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Operative time
  • Pediatric urology
  • Relative value scales
  • Work RVU

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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