CA Hits Nerve By Singling Out Cardiac Surgeons With Higher Patient Death Rates

Kaiser Health News, July 17, 2017

California is one of a handful of states that publicly reports surgeons’ names and risk-adjusted death rates on a procedure known as the “isolated coronary artery bypass graft."

Surgeons

This article first appeared July 17, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Anna Gorman

Michael Koumjian, a heart surgeon for nearly three decades, said he considered treating the sickest patients a badge of honor. The San Diego doctor was frequently called upon to operate on those who had multiple illnesses or who’d undergone CPR before arriving at the hospital.

Recently, however, Koumjian received some unwelcome recognition: He was identified in a public database of California heart surgeons as one of seven with a higher-than-average death rate for patients who underwent a common bypass procedure.

“If you are willing to give people a shot and their only chance is surgery, then you are going to have more deaths and be criticized," said Koumjian, whose risk-adjusted death rate was 7.5 per 100 surgeries in 2014-15. “The surgeons that worry about their stats just don’t take those cases."

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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