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?


- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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

    These lists are risk–adjusted, so that won't make any difference.

    27 Apr 2006, 21:22

  2. I'm all for open information but sometimes information can be dangerous if not properly understood. If they're going to release surgeons' success rates, then we have to know all the background information behind the statistics (such as in Max's comment), otherwise they're meaningless and merely become media fodder.

    I'd much rather have more information on how money's being spent in the NHS and why antibiotic–resistance still keeps spreading to be honest…

    V xx

    30 Apr 2006, 22:24

  3. A

    let's be honest

    this isn't the operation your thinking about is it?

    abortion is safe now. no knitting needles involved!!

    get on with it– you won't bleed to death!

    01 May 2006, 00:10


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