Surgery Risk Calculator Predicts Complications

Cheryl Clark, August 23, 2013

A new tool for assessing the risk of surgical complications might eventually be used as an optional alternative to generate reimbursement under the Physician Quality Reporting System.

For the first time, surgeons have a sophisticated risk calculator said to accurately predict the chance of death or a number of other bad outcomes, such as renal failure or infection, for nearly any surgical procedure done in a U.S. hospital.

Medical Errors

Slideshow: ASC/NSQIP Surgical Risk Calculator

"The old way we were assessing risk was very simple and it only applied to three or four operations, and only gave three outcomes," says Karl Bilimoria, MD, director of Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center at Northwestern University who developed the calculator with the American College of Surgeons.

"This one applies to more than 1,500 operations, and provides nine or 10 outcomes. It's considerably better."

"There's clear excitement among surgeons about having this available and I think they will use it," although initially, he says, it may take time to explain the online tool to their patients. "I think setting their patients' realistic expectations from the beginning may save them time in the long run."

In some cases, he says, the risk calculator may prompt a doctor to change a recommendation about whether a patient should have surgery. With the calculator, the procedure may appear less risky than originally perceived, but in some cases more so.


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