How to Judge Surgical Quality

The track records of cardiac surgeons have been subjected to closer scrutiny than those of any other physicians. This is because cardiac surgery is high profile and high cost, and the results are relatively easy to measure and compare. The most common indicator used to judge the quality of a surgeon is the death rate after cardiac surgery.

The average death rate after coronary bypass surgery is three out of every one hundred patients operated upon (3 percent). A patient who is older or has other diseases has a higher risk, whereas younger patients without serious medical conditions are at a lower risk of dying after surgery. To judge the quality of a surgeon or surgery program, one has to know how "sick" their patient population is. Much effort has been made to develop a "risk-adjustment" scale to level the playing field.

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