Monday, August 17, 2009

Doctors defend themselves over heart surgery deaths (UK)

"Doctors have defended an increase in deaths for some types of heart surgery and insisted treatment was improving for patients. The death rate for aortic valve replacements, or AVR, where surgeons replace a diseased valve with an artificial or tissue valve, increased from 1.5 per cent in 2002 to 2003, to 3.25 per cent in 2007 to 2008. But figures released by the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, also showed a drop in mortality rates for heart bypass surgery. Cardiac surgeon Prof Stephen Westaby, who has worked at the John Radcliffe for more than 20 years, said the apparent increase in deaths in AVR surgery could be explained by the number of high risk patients being taken on. He said: 'These statistical issues are never what they seem. In the case of primary aortic valve replacements, we are now doing patients in their late 80s and 90s. 'We are now looking at an extremely elderly group of patients and you simply can’t keep mortality rates down. 'The figure of 3.25 per cent is still very, very low for the sort of groups we are dealing with. The John Radcliffe is known in the country to take on a proportion of high risk patients'" - Newsquest

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