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U.S. News: Safety in Numbers – Low Volumes at Military Hospitals Imperil Patients

U.S. News writes: Decades of research show that performing too few surgeries endanger the patients that hospitals serve. And at military hospitals nationwide, counts of high-risk procedures performed fell far below safety thresholds in 2016. Using data drawn from every military hospital worldwide from 2012 through 2016, U.S. News examined 10 categories of procedures: weight-loss surgery, hip replacement, knee replacement, mitral-valve repair, surgery to patch abdominal aortic aneurysms, carotid-artery stenting and operations to remove cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, rectum and lung. All of the studied procedures are done routinely in civilian hospitals. All have been shown to have worse outcomes – including higher complication and death rates – when done by surgical teams that do small numbers of them. The cancer procedures are particularly risky, experts say. The results of the U.S. News analysis underscore the military’s inability to assure that patients needing challenging and risky operations are referred to centers with practiced surgical teams that perform the procedures regularly.

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