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Higher surgeon annual volume, but not years of experience, is associated with reduced rates of postoperative complications and reoperations after open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair

Dubois L, Allen B, Bray-Jenkyn K, Power AH, DeRose G, Forbes TL, Duncan A, Shariff SZ. J Vasc Surg. 2018; 67(6):1717-26.e5. Epub 2017 Dec 13.

Objective — Volume-outcome relationships for open abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair have received less attention in publicly funded health systems. Furthermore, the roles of surgeon seniority (years of experience) and composite volume (encompassing all major arterial cases) on outcomes after open AAA repair are less well known. We sought to determine the effects of surgeon volume, surgeon years of experience, and composite volume on outcomes after elective open AAA repairs performed in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — Using a population-based, prospectively collected health administrative database, all elective open AAA repairs occurring in the province of Ontario from 2005 to 2014 were identified. Surgeon annual volume was classified by quintiles, with the highest volume quintile acting as the reference category. Multivariable logistic regression modeling was used, adjusting for patient factors (age, sex, comorbidities, year of procedure, income) to investigate the relationship between surgeon annual volume and 30-day mortality, 30-day major complications, 30-day reoperations, 1-year mortality, and 1-year reoperations (related to index procedure). The potential effects of annual surgeon composite volume and surgeon years of experience on postoperative outcomes were also explored.

Results — A total of 7211 elective open AAA repairs performed by 101 surgeons were identified between 2005 and 2014. Most of the operations were performed by vascular surgeons (81.5%), followed by cardiac (12.1%) and general surgeons (6.1%). Median number of procedures in the lowest quintile group was 3 repairs/y, whereas the highest quintile group performed 54 repairs/y. Overall 30-day mortality was 3%. No difference in mortality was detected in comparing the lowest with the highest volume groups (1.89% vs 3.01%; adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.60; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.27-1.33). The lowest volume group exhibited a higher 30-day complication rate (28.0% vs 20.4%; OR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.15-2.06) and 30-day reoperation rate (10.53% vs 6.73%; OR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.13-2.38) compared with the highest volume group. No effect of surgeon volume on 1-year mortality or 1-year reoperation was observed. Similarly, composite volume and surgeon years of experience were not associated with postoperative outcomes.

Conclusions — In a single-payer system with a relatively high number of open AAA repairs/surgeon per year, surgeon annual volume had no effect on postoperative mortality but was associated with lower postoperative complication and reoperation rates.