Background: Considerable technical variation exists when performing laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG). However, little is known about which techniques are associated with optimal outcomes.
Objective: To compare technical variation among surgeons with the lowest complication rates and whose patients achieved the most weight loss.
Methods: Practicing bariatric surgeons (n = 30) voluntarily submitted a video of a typical LSG performed between 2015 and 2016. Technique-specific data captured from videos and a questionnaire included bougie size, stapler vendor, number of staple loads, use of staple line reinforcement, fibrin sealant, intraoperative leak test, endoscopy, and drain placement. Surgeon-specific outcomes were obtained from cases performed by surgeons during the study period (n = 7023) using a state-wide bariatric-specific data registry. Surgeons were ranked based on 30-day risk-adjusted surgical complication rates ("safety") and excess body weight loss (EBWL) % ("efficacy") at 1 year after surgery. Technique-specific variables were compared between surgeons ranked in the top and bottom quartile for both safety and efficacy.
Results: Surgical complication rates ranged from 0 to 4.32% while EBWL varied from 45.3 to 65.3%. There was no correlation between surgeon rankings for safety and efficacy (Pearson's r = 0.063, p = 0.741). Surgeons ranked in the top quartile for safety and efficacy had significantly shorter mean operative times than surgeons ranked in the bottom quartile (65 min vs. 69 min, p < 0.0001). Surgeons with the highest leak rates were more likely to use buttressing (85.7% vs 40.0%, p = 0.032), otherwise operative techniques varied considerably.
Conclusions: Technical variation appears to have minimal effect on the safety or efficacy of sleeve gastrectomy among surgeons participating in a state-wide quality improvement collaborative. Top ranked surgeons did have faster mean operative times indicating that there may be other metrics of technical quality that correlate to optimal outcomes.
Keywords: Bariatric surgery; Complications; Outcomes; Sleeve gastrectomy; Technique; Video assessment.