Consumer Reports: 25% of surgical groups are above average

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More than 25 percent of surgical groups who perform heart bypass surgery are above the national average, according to the latest ratings released by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) in collaboration with Consumer Reports. The ratings, based on overall performance, complications and other quality measures, rank 324 surgical groups across the U.S. that perform CABG.

Of the 324 groups, 81 received a three-star rating (above the national average), 238 received two stars (average) and five received one star (below average).

The data were taken from the STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database, which gathers information from more than 90 percent of the total 1,100 surgical groups in the U.S., and houses four million patient records from groups performing bypass surgery.

“The willingness of surgeons to track their performance has led to some important improvements, including a dramatic reduction in mortality,” according to the Consumer Reports article titled, “The business of healing hearts.” In fact, the differences in patient survival only differed by 1.9 percent between the groups with the highest chance of survival and the lowest. These rates were 98.8 percent in the group with the highest chance of patient survival and 96.9 percent in the lowest.

All of the groups rated were average for survival. “That doesn't mean that average isn't very good,” offered Frederick L. Grover, MD, organizer of the STS National Database and chair of the department of surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora. “It means everyone is doing an excellent job at preventing patient deaths.” However, while survival rates may have been comparable for all groups, complication rates varied.

“In the past decade, there has been a dramatic reduction in mortality among heart surgery patients, and much of that improvement is due to surgeons' willingness to track their own performance.  Participation in the STS National Database provides surgeons with frequent feedback to help them compare their local results with national benchmarks,” said Fred H. Edwards, MD, who helped establish the database in 1989 and is now director of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Research Center, in a press release.

To view the full list of surgical groups and their ratings click here.