Public reporting of surgical mortality: a survey of New York State cardiothoracic surgeons

Ann Thorac Surg. 1999 Oct;68(4):1195-200; discussion 1201-2. doi: 10.1016/s0003-4975(99)00907-8.


Background: Public disclosure of individual surgeons mortality following coronary artery bypass (CAB) is part of the New York State Department of Health Cardiac Surgery Reporting System (CSRS). The effects on the practice of cardiac surgery, as perceived by surgeons, remain unknown.

Methods: All 150 New York State cardiac surgeons were sent an anonymous mail survey in 1997. Data was analyzed to determine the dominant opinion regarding the CSRS.

Results: One hundred and four surgeons (69.3%) responded. The majority (70%) did not experience a change in practice. Data reporting was performed by the surgeon or an employee (58%). Many picked the incorrect definition of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (45%) or statistical method (60%). The aspect of CSRS most in need of improvement was gaming with risk factors (40%). Most surgeons (62%) refused to operate on at least one high-risk CAB patient over the prior year, primarily because of public reporting. Refusal was more common in surgeons in practice less than 10 years, those with less than 100 cases per year, and those with a mixed cardiothoracic practice (p < 0.05, Pearson's chi2 test). A significantly higher percentage of high-risk CAB patients were treated non-operatively, when compared with ascending aortic dissection patients (not disclosed) (p < 0.001, Wilcoxon signed ranks test).

Conclusions: The public disclosure of surgical results may be based on imperfect data and appears to have resulted in denial of surgical treatment to high-risk patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Bias
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / mortality*
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Documentation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Public Relations*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Refusal to Treat / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk