Objectives: The detection of postoperative complications is a necessary quality-of-care endeavor. Despite its historical role, the Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) Conference depends on voluntary reporting and may be an insufficient mechanism for comprehensive complication surveillance. In response to this concern, we compared the concordance between complications voluntarily reported at the M&M Conference and those identified prospectively by the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP).
Methods: For a single calendar year (2004), we compiled a comprehensive list of complications that were either identified and voluntarily entered into our department's electronic M&M Conference database and/or identified prospectively (from an explicit sample of cases) by a trained research associate-based NSQIP protocol. For analytic purposes, we treated NSQIP as the reference standard for the detection of complications. We then determined the sensitivity of the M&M Conference for the identification of complications at a patient and event level. Logistic regression modeling was used to evaluate for an association between complication category (ie, organ system affected) and detection by the M&M Conference.
Results: The NSQIP detected 347 complications in 176 patients. Using this reference standard, the patient-level and event-level sensitivity of the M&M Conference was 25% (44 of 176) and 14% (47 of 347), respectively. The sensitivity of the M&M Conference varied by NSQIP complication category (P = 0.08). Circulatory events were 11 times more likely to be reported at the M&M Conference than urinary complications (odds ratio 11.3, 95% confidence interval 2.4 to 53.7).
Conclusions: Compared with the NSQIP, the M&M Conference has a low (but variable) sensitivity for the detection of postoperative complications. Therefore, despite its limitations, the NSQIP may provide a better foundation for urologic quality improvement endeavors.