Context: There have been recent calls for using hospital procedural volume as a quality indicator for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, but further research into analysis and policy implication is needed before hospital procedural volume is accepted as a standard quality metric.
Objective: To examine the contemporary association between hospital CABG procedure volume and outcome in a large national clinical database.
Design, setting, and participants: Observational analysis of 267 089 isolated CABG procedures performed at 439 US hospitals participating in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons National Cardiac Database between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2001.
Main outcome measure: Association between hospital CABG procedural volume and all-cause operative mortality (in-hospital or 30-day, whichever was longer).
Results: The median (interquartile range) annual hospital-isolated CABG volume was 253 (165-417) procedures, with 82% of centers performing fewer than 500 procedures per year. The overall operative mortality was 2.66%. After adjusting for patient risk and clustering effects, rates of operative mortality decreased with increasing hospital CABG volume (0.07% for every 100 additional CABG procedures; adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.98; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.96-0.99; P =.004). While the association between volume and outcome was statistically significant overall, this association was not observed in patients younger than 65 years or in those at low operative risk and was confounded by surgeon volume. The ability of hospital volume to discriminate those centers with significantly better or worse mortality was limited due to the wide variability in risk-adjusted mortality among hospitals with similar volume. Closure of up to 100 of the lowest-volume centers (ie, those performing < or =150 CABG procedures/year) was estimated to avert fewer than 50 of 7110 (<1% of total) CABG-related deaths.
Conclusion: In contemporary practice, hospital procedural volume is only modestly associated with CABG outcomes and therefore may not be an adequate quality metric for CABG surgery.