Objectives: Quality control is difficult to achieve in Congenital Heart Surgery (CHS) because of the diversity of the procedures. It is particularly needed, considering the potential adverse outcomes associated with complex cases. The aim of this project was to develop a new method based on the complexity of the procedures.
Methods: The Aristotle project, involving a panel of expert surgeons, started in 1999 and included 50 pediatric surgeons from 23 countries, representing the EACTS, STS, ECHSA and CHSS. The complexity was based on the procedures as defined by the STS/EACTS International Nomenclature and was undertaken in two steps: the first step was establishing the Basic Score, which adjusts only the complexity of the procedures. It is based on three factors: the potential for mortality, the potential for morbidity and the anticipated technical difficulty. A questionnaire was completed by the 50 centers. The second step was the development of the Comprehensive Aristotle Score, which further adjusts the complexity according to the specific patient characteristics. It includes two categories of complexity factors, the procedure dependent and independent factors. After considering the relationship between complexity and performance, the Aristotle Committee is proposing that: Performance = Complexity x Outcome.
Results: The Aristotle score, allows precise scoring of the complexity for 145 CHS procedures. One interesting notion coming out of this study is that complexity is a constant value for a given patient regardless of the center where he is operated. The Aristotle complexity score was further applied to 26 centers reporting to the EACTS congenital database. A new display of centers is presented based on the comparison of hospital survival to complexity and to our proposed definition of performance.
Conclusion: A complexity-adjusted method named the Aristotle Score, based on the complexity of the surgical procedures has been developed by an international group of experts. The Aristotle score, electronically available, was introduced in the EACTS and STS databases. A validation process evaluating its predictive value is being developed.