Background: Operation Smile is a humanitarian volunteer-based organization that provides cleft care around the world. Successful primary surgery is the key to improving the quality of life of patients with oral clefts. A cleft surgery outcomes database and evaluation system has been developed and implemented.
Methods: During Operation Smile's "World Journey of Smiles" in November 2007, a total of 4100 patients were operated on during a 10-day period at 40 simultaneous missions in 25 countries. Photographs taken before surgery, right after surgery, and at the follow-up consultations were entered in a database and used as media to evaluate surgical outcomes objectively by independent unbiased evaluators. Data about complications collected during the postoperative consultations were also entered.
Results: A postoperative consultation, 6 months to 1 year after surgery was conducted at 24 sites, 19 of which sent back postoperative images; and most returned postoperative examination forms. At those 19 sites, 703 of 1917 patients returned for a 6- to 9-month postoperative visit, for a 36.67% return rate. After matching before and after pictures, 562 patients were able to be entered into the database, allowing 580 procedures to be evaluated. Feedback reports have been sent to 134 volunteer surgeons around the world. Results were compared among sites and locations; and the places where future actions were needed to improve the quality of surgery were identified.
Conclusions: The current outcomes evaluation system has proven beneficial in tracking patient outcomes, auditing surgical performance, and providing feedback to surgeons and other team members. Challenges are discussed.