All entries for Thursday 27 April 2006

April 27, 2006

Operation survival rates: should we have the information?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4947046.stm

A breaking story today announces that hospital heart surgery survival rates are being published for the first time. However, they have stopped short of making the publishing of success rates compulsory for individual surgeons: only those who have volunteered have had their results published. Perhaps unsurprisingly the ones who have come forward have success rates above the expected average. However, there is much pressure to make the publishing of these results mandatory and for other medical specialisms to follow suit.

  • If I was a patient going in for major surgery I would want to know that my surgeon was competent and was not likely to make mistakes. Do we have a right to know this information and possibly make changes to our treatment on the basis of it?

  • It may encourage some with lower standards to make more effort to improve their techniques. On the other hand, it may cause extra counterproductive stress.

  • Surgeons may refuse to operate on high-risk patients in case they bring down their averages.

  • Will the results be truly reflective of a surgeon's ability? A doctor could just have a string of bad luck and as a result be blacklisted because the sample size isn't large enough to reflect a true average.

Is this an irreconcilable situation?


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