Quality assessment in surgery: riding a lame horse.

Department of Surgery, University Hospital, Raemistr. 100, Zurich, Switzerland.
Annals of surgery (Impact Factor: 7.19). 03/2010; 251(4):766-71. DOI: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3181d0d211
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Quality assessment in surgery is paramount for patients and health care providers. In our center, quality assessment is based on the recording of preoperative risk factors of each patient and a well-established grading system to track complications. Our prospective quality database is administrated by residents. However, the validity of such data collection is unknown.
To evaluate the validity of the recorded data, a specially trained study nurse audited our prospective quality database over a 6-month period. In the first 3 months, the audit was done in an undisclosed manner. Then, the audit was disclosed to the residents who were again subjected to a teaching course. Thereafter, the audit was continued in a disclosed manner for another 3 months, and data were compared between the 2 periods. Furthermore, we inquired about the strategies to assess surgical quality in 108 European medical centers.
Surprisingly, residents failed to report most complications; 80% (164/206) and 79% (275/347; P = 0.27) of the negative postoperative events were not recorded during the first and the second period, respectively. When captured, however, grading of complications was correct in 97% of the cases. Moreover, comorbidities were incorrectly assessed in 20% of the patients in the first period and in 14% thereafter (P = 0.07). The survey disclosed that residents and junior staff are responsible of recording surgical outcome in 80% of the participating European centers.
Recording of outcome by surgical residents is unreliable,despite active and focused training. Hence, surgery should be evaluated by dedicated personnel.

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