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Effect of individual patient risk, centre, surgeon and anaesthetist on length of stay in hospital after cardiac surgery: Association of Cardiothoracic Anaesthesia and Critical Care (ACTACC) consecutive cases series study of 10 UK specialist centres

11 Sep 2017


To determine the relative contributions of patient risk profile, local and individual clinical practice on length of hospital stay after cardiac surgery.


Ten-year audit of prospectively collected consecutive cardiac surgical cases. Case-mix adjusted outcomes were analysed in models that included random effects for centre, surgeon and anaesthetist.


UK centres providing adult cardiac surgery.


10 of 36 UK specialist centres agreed to provide outcomes for all major cardiac operations over 10 years. After exclusions (duplicates, cases operated by more than one consultant, deaths and procedures for which the EuroSCORE risk score for cardiac surgery is not appropriate), there were 107 038 cardiac surgical procedures between April 2002 and March 2012, conducted by 127 consultant surgeons and 190 consultant anaesthetists.

Main outcome measure

Length of stay (LOS) up to 3 months postoperatively.


The principal component of variation in outcomes was patient risk (represented by the EuroSCORE and remaining patient heterogeneity), accounting for 95.43% of the variation for postoperative LOS. The impact of the surgeon and centre was moderate (intra-class correlation coefficients ICC=2.79% and 1.59%, respectively), whereas the impact of the anaesthetist was negligible (ICC=0.19%). Similarly, 96.05% of the variation for prolonged LOS (>11 days) was attributable to the patient, with surgeon and centre less but still influential components (ICC=2.12% and 1.66%, respectively, 0.17% only for anaesthetists). Adjustment for year of operation resulted in minor reductions in variation attributable to surgeons (ICC=2.52% for LOS and 2.23% for prolonged LOS).


Patient risk profile is the primary determinant of variation in LOS, and as a result, current initiatives to reduce hospital stay by modifying consultant performance are unlikely to have a substantial impact. Therefore, substantially reducing hospital stay requires shifting away from a one-size-fits-all approach to cardiac surgery, and seeking alternative treatment options personalised to high-risk patients.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open