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High-Risk Surgeries Getting Safer: Study
Date:6/2/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Undergoing an operation can be scary, but University of Michigan researchers offer some reassuring news: Deaths among those having high-risk surgery have fallen substantially in recent years.

Much of this is due to many high-risk cancer operations being done in hospitals that do a lot of them and to overall better compliance with safety guidelines, the researchers noted.

"Overall, surgery in the United States is getting safer," said lead researcher Dr. Jonathan F. Finks, an assistant professor of surgery at University of Michigan Health Systems. "However, there is still room for improvement. Our focus should be on strategies that improve outcomes across all procedures."

The report is published in the June 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, Finks and colleagues used Medicare data to look at cancer and cardiac surgeries among an older population between 1999 and 2008.

"With complex cancer operations, operative mortality declined between 11 percent for resection of esophageal cancer and 19 percent for resection of pancreas cancer," Finks said. "With major cardiovascular surgery, mortality declined between 8 percent for carotid endarterectomy [removal of plaque] and 36 percent for repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm."

With cancer surgery in particular, mortality has dropped in large part because more patients are having their surgery in safer, high-volume hospitals, Finks explained. "For many high-risk procedures, hundreds of lower volume hospitals in the U.S. have stopped doing them," he explained.

However, the reasons for declining deaths with cardiovascular surgery remain uncertain, Finks said. "Possible reasons include use of minimally invasive techniques in the repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms," he added.

Other improvements include the development of large national r
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