Surgeon rankings released for the first time

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By Lindy Thackston

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (July 15, 2015) - Every time you go under the knife, it's a risk. Have you ever wondered where your surgeon ranks when it comes to performance? For the first time, you have free access to the ratings of surgeons across the country.

The new website, found here, compares surgeons for 14 of the most important and high-risk types of surgery, including heart valve and bypass surgery, various types of vascular surgery, major bowel surgery, spine surgery, pulmonary surgery, and total knee and hip replacement.

"The website tells people which surgeons all over the country have the best results in terms of having the fewest patients die, having the fewest complications in surgery, and having a low rate of having people come back into the hospital after they've been released,' said Robert M. Krughoff, founder and president of Consumers' Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services.

"For this website we were able to get government records on more than 4 million surgeries, details on those surgeries, done by more than 50,000 surgeons," said Krughoff. "It was never possible to do death rates by individual surgeons until we were able to get this information from the government, which we had to fight very hard to get."

The ratings are based on the outcomes of more than four million surgeries done by more than 50,000 doctors.

"We use that information to calculate what the rates of patients dying and other bad outcomes are for each surgeon and when we do this we take into account the fact that some surgeons have more difficult patients than others. We adjust these results for whether some surgeons have sicker patients or older patients, so that they really are meaningful surgeon-to-surgeon comparisons."

"It’s very important for people to be able to not have a surgeon where they’re not going to have bad things happen to them since some surgeons have three times the frequency of bad things happening to their patients even after we take into account the differences among patients."

The site also includes surgeon recommendations by other doctors, which hospitals each surgeon has used for performing the surgeries and which of those hospitals have the best results, which surgeons do a relatively large number of cases of each type, and information on surgeons' training and experience.

"You really want to be able to identify a doctor where you have a good chance of getting good results and in Indianapolis, as in other parts of the country, there are big differences," said Krughoff. "Many people just choose a surgeon based on a recommendation of a friend or what an insurance company says, but you want to be more engaged than that. This is a very high stakes decision you’re making."