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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2012 Feb;143(2):287-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2011.10.043. Epub 2011 Nov 20.

Quality, not volume, determines outcome of coronary artery bypass surgery in a university-based community hospital network.

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  • 1Florida Heart Research Institute, Miami, Miami FL 33140, USA.



The present study examined the relationship between hospital and surgeon coronary artery bypass grafting procedural volume, mortality, morbidity, and National Quality Forum care processes in a university-based community hospital quality improvement program.


The study population consisted of 2218 consecutive patients undergoing isolated coronary artery bypass grafting from 2007 to 2009 in a university-based quality improvement program that emphasizes involvement of all surgeons in the academic quality endeavor. The endpoints included operative mortality, major morbidity, and National Quality Forum-endorsed process measures as defined by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. The procedural volume was analyzed as a categorical and continuous variable using general estimating equations, which accounted for clustering effects and which were adjusted for Society of Thoracic Surgeons risk scores and the propensity for operation in a low- versus high-volume program.


The annual program volume ranged from 67 to 292 (median, 136; interquartile range, 88-224) and surgeon volume from 1 to 124 (median, 58; interquartile range, 30-89). The mortality rate among the hospitals was 0.47% to 2.23% (0.8% overall), and the observed/expected mortality ranged from 0 to 1.20 (0.41 overall). When comparing low-volume (<200 cases/year) and high-volume centers, no difference was found in the mortality (odds ratio [OR], 1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46-2.54, P = .85), morbidity (OR, 1.34; 95% CI, 0.73-2.43), or any of the medication process measures. No difference was found in mortality (OR, 1.59; 95% CI, 0.81-3.13; P = .18), morbidity (OR, 1.20; 95% CI, 0.86-1.66; P = .28), or medication failure (OR, 0.57, 95% CI, 0.3-1.10; P = .10) between the high- and low-volume surgeons (<87). After adjustment for both the Society of Thoracic Surgeons risk score and the propensity score, no association was found for either hospital or surgeon volume with mortality or morbidity. However, a lack of compliance with National Quality Forum measures was highly predictive of morbidity (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.18-1.93; P = .001), regardless of volume, even after adjustment for predicted risk.


In the setting of a university-based community hospital quality improvement program, excellent surgical results can consistently be obtained even in relatively low-volume programs. The surgical outcomes were not associated with program or surgeon volume, but were directly correlated with the focus on quality as manifested by compliance with evidence-based quality standards. Meaningful university affiliation might represent a new quality paradigm for cardiac surgery in the community hospital setting.

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