MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Children who have heart surgery at high-volume hospitals may fare better than those who are treated in hospitals that perform fewer pediatric cardiac surgeries per year, but this is not due to volume alone.
New research suggests that the busier centers are more able to spot and handle complications should they occur after heart surgery.
Of more than 35,000 children who had heart surgery at 68 hospitals, nearly 4 percent of children died in the hospital, and almost 41 percent experienced at least one complication after their surgery, a new study found.
Centers that performed more than 350 surgeries a year were considered "high volume," while those that performed fewer than 150 heart surgeries in children each year were "low volume." The complication rate was similar across all centers. That said, the risk for dying after a major complication was higher at hospitals that performed fewer than 150 pediatric heart surgeries a year, when compared to those centers where more than 350 heart surgeries were performed a year, the study showed.
The new findings appear online Jan. 9 and in the February 2012 print issue of Pediatrics.
"Higher mortality observed at lower-volume centers appears to be relate to a higher rate of death in those who suffer a postoperative complication, rather than a higher rate of complications alone," said study author Dr. Sara Pasquali, director of pediatric cardiovascular outcomes at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. "This suggests that initiatives aimed at improving patients outcomes may need to focus not only on reducing complications themselves, but on better recognition and management of complications once they occur."
Parents of a child in need of heart surgery may feel both scared and overwhelmed by the entire prospect and process.
"Several studies have now found that high
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