Hurricane Katrina produced a surge of patient referrals to our facility for cardiac surgery. We sought to determine the impact of this abrupt volume change on operative outcomes. Using our cardiac surgery database, which is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Continuous Improvement in Cardiac Surgery Program, we compared procedural outcomes for all cardiac operations that were performed in the year before the hurricane (Year A, 29 August 2004-28 August 2005) and the year after (Year B, 30 August 2005-29 August 2006). Mortality was examined as unadjusted rates and as risk-adjusted observed-to-expected ratios. We identified 433 cardiac surgery cases: 143 (33%) from Year A and 290 (67%) from Year B. The operative mortality rate was 2.8% during Year A (observed-to-expected ratio, 0.4) and 2.8% during Year B (observed-to-expected ratio, 0.6) (P = 0.9). We identified several factors that enabled our institution to accommodate the increase in surgical volume during the study period. We conclude that, although Hurricane Katrina caused a sudden, dramatic increase in the number of cardiac operations that were performed at our facility, good surgical outcomes were maintained.
Keywords: Cardiac surgical procedures/standards/statistics & numerical data; Texas; United States Department of Veterans Affairs; data collection; delivery of health care/organization & administration; emergency medical services/organization & administration; health services research; hospitals, veterans/standards; natural disasters; quality assurance, health care; surgery department, hospital/standards.