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Lancet. 2001 Jul 21;358(9277):181-7.

Comparison of UK paediatric cardiac surgical performance by analysis of routinely collected data 1984-96: was Bristol an outlier?

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Division of Primary Care and Population Health Sciences, Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK.



Reports of high mortality after paediatric cardiac surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, UK, led to the establishment of an independent public inquiry. A key question was whether or not the mortality statistics in Bristol were unusual compared with other specialist centres. To answer this question, we did a retrospective analysis of mortality in the UK using two datasets.


Data from the UK Cardiac Surgical Register (CSR; January, 1984, to March, 1996) and Hospital Episode Statistics (HES; April, 1991, to December, 1995) were obtained for all 12 major centres in which paediatric cardiac surgery is done in the UK. The main outcome measure was mortality within 30 days of a cardiac surgical procedure. We estimated excess deaths in Bristol using a random-effects model derived from the remaining 11 centres. Additionally, a sensitivity analysis was done and case-mix examined.


For children younger than 1 year, in open operations, the mortality rate in Bristol was around double that of the other centres during 1991-95: within the CSR, there were 19.0 excess deaths (95% interval 2-32) among 43 deaths; and in HES, there were 24.1 excess deaths (12-34) among 41 deaths recorded. There was no strong evidence for excess mortality in Bristol for closed operations or for open operations in children older than 1 year.


Our results suggest that Bristol was an outlier, and we do not believe that statistical variation, systematic bias in data collection, case-mix, or data quality can explain a divergence in performance of this size.

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