October 3, 2019

UW Health receives highest rating for congenital heart surgery program

Madison, Wis. — The congenital heart surgery program at UW Health has earned a three-star rating from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for its patient care and outcomes.

The three-star rating denotes the highest category of quality given by the STS and positions UW Health among programs with the best clinical outcomes in the United States and Canada.

The STS star rating system compares each program’s outcomes to the nationally benchmarked outcomes of cardiothoracic surgery programs throughout the US and Canada. Ratings are calculated based on overall risk-adjusted operative mortality for all patients undergoing pediatric and/or congenital heart surgery performed by an STS participant.

Operative mortality is defined as all deaths occurring during the hospitalization in which the procedure was performed, even after 30 days, and those deaths occurring after discharge from the hospital, but within 30 days of the procedure.

The latest analysis of data for congenital heart surgery covers the four-year period from January 2015 to December 2018, during which patient outcomes at UW Health were better than expected in every patient category that was measured, from neonatal to adult.

“It takes many people doing the right thing consistently to have outcomes this strong,” said Dr. Petros Anagnostopoulos, chief of surgery at UW Health’s American Family Children’s Hospital. “Cardiac patients truly touch every practice area in our system of care and I credit our entire team of dedicated doctors, nurses and staff for this impressive accomplishment.”

The STS Congenital Heart Surgery Database contains more than 515,000 congenital heart surgery procedure records and has 1,061 participating physicians, including surgeons and anesthesiologists from more than 95 percent of the hospitals that perform congenital heart surgery in the US.

Historically, only eight to 10 percent of participating physicians and institutions receive the three-star rating for congenital heart surgery. Only nine other programs across the country were awarded a three-star rating in the current database analysis.

“The Society of Thoracic Surgeons congratulates STS National Database participants who have received three-star ratings,” said Dr. David M. Shahian, chair of the Task Force on Quality Measurement. “Participation in the Database and public reporting demonstrate a commitment to quality improvement in health care delivery and helps provide patients and their families with meaningful information to help them make informed decisions about health care.”

UW Health's comprehensive congenital heart surgery program provides a wide range of surgical treatments for children with congenital heart disorders. Each year, approximately 32,000 children are born with some type of congenital heart disorder. Congenital means existing at birth, rather than acquired later in life. Of these 32,000 children, approximately 10,000 are critically ill in the first year of life.

Congenital heart disorders range from simple physical abnormalities to complex diseases. Symptoms vary, depending on the type of disorder and the age of the child. Some children have no symptoms. Others have symptoms such as cyanosis (bluish skin discoloration,) difficulty breathing or signs of heart failure. Yet others have symptoms that develop gradually throughout childhood.

Fortunately, medical and/or surgical intervention can cure certain congenital heart defects or help improve both the longevity and quality of life for children with such heart defects. Currently, there are approximately 1.4 million adults in the U.S. living with congenital heart disorders.

More information about the rankings, including methodology and outcomes, can be found at https://publicreporting.sts.org.