A new analysis of New York hospital data showed a reduction in surgical death rates and improvements in treating serious illnesses over a decade despite higher post-surgical infections and deaths from operations where part of the skull is removed.
The Niagara Health Quality Coalition reported gains for 230 hospitals in most patient-safety categories, though post-operative sepsis, or systemic inflammation caused by severe infections, rose from 1.1 to 1.4 percent.
Statewide surgical mortality rates improved about 50 percent, according to lead researcher and coalition President Bruce Boissonnault. He noted that deaths from aneurysm repairs, for example, declined from 8.5 percent in 2002 to 2.6 percent in 2011.
For coronary artery heart bypass grafts, the death rate fell from 3.7 percent to 0.6 percent, while in surgeries opening a patient’s skull, called craniotomies, the rate rose from 7.1 percent to 10.4 percent.
Mortality rates for hospital inpatient conditions declined from 10.1 percent to 5.5 percent for heart attacks, from 13.1 percent to 12.3 percent for acute strokes and from 8.2 percent to 3.6 percent for pneumonia.
Boissonnault cites two main factors for the decline: required reporting of outcomes that has pressured individual hospitals to improve results and ongoing advances in care. They called for a regional surveillance system for the most dangerous infections, like antibiotic-resistant bacteria, extending to all hospitals and long-term care centers.
“We see infection rates for what can be measured well going up every year,” Boissonnault said. “The chain of infection control is no stronger than its weakest link.”
New York this year became the first state to require hospitals to adopt best practices for early identification and treatment of sepsis, a top priority since it’s the leading killer in hospitals.