The STS represents 4,500 surgeons worldwide who operate on the thorax and chest. Its Adult Cardiac Surgery Database "includes more than 4 million surgical records and covers roughly 90 percent of the more than 1,000 surgical groups in the U.S. that perform cardiac surgery, making it the largest such registry in the world." Consumer Reports will use a three-star rating system to rank surgical groups above average, average, or below average based on survival rates, complications and several other factors.
"These ratings include only those groups that have agreed to let us publish their performance results," Consumer Reports said. "That includes 221 groups from 42 states, plus the District of Columbia. Fifty of those groups received three stars for their overall performance, 166 got two stars, and five got one star. We will periodically update the ratings with data from additional groups that agree to release their information to us."
The system appears to be deeply flawed. By including in their statistical universe only those practitioners who agree to be measured, Consumer Reports is likely to leave out a large number of relevant operations that should be included in a realistic evaluation. When the magazine's publisher, Consumers Union, measures the quality of cars, appliances or other products, it can buy and evaluate a broad spectrum of them. By comparison, their surgical data is incomplete. And that goes to the heart of whether this new ranking system is worthwhile.