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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  December 19, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Marilyn Riley

Fourth Cardiac Surgery Report Card
Updates Hospital, Physician Performance

TRENTON - The Department of Health and Senior Services announced today that New Jersey's statewide mortality rate for patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery held steady in 1999, remaining essentially unchanged from the previous cardiac surgery report card.

Cardiac Surgery in New Jersey: A Consumer Report also includes performance data both for individual surgeons and for the 14 hospitals performing cardiac surgery during the report period. This is the fourth cardiac report issued by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, in cooperation with the Commissioner's Cardiovascular Health Advisory Panel.

According to the report released today, New Jersey's statewide mortality rate was 2.89 percent in 1999, compared with the 1998 rate of 2.60 percent. The two rates are not considered to be statistically different.

"Since 1994, New Jersey mortality rates have dropped steadily. The 1999 data does not precisely fit this trend," said acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., M.D. "However, it's too early to tell if mortality rates have truly reached a plateau or whether the downward trend will continue. We need two more years' data to get a clearer picture of the trend."

Cardiac surgery mortality rates are risk-adjusted to reflect the fact that hospitals and physicians across the state treat diverse populations, and that the patient pool statewide has changed since 1994. Generally speaking, over time, the patient pool has come to surgery with more health conditions that put patients at risk of dying. In effect, risk adjustment gives "extra credit" to hospitals and physicians treating sicker patients.

When statewide mortality data are risk-adjusted over the six years of data reporting, it shows the death rate has dropped by 36 percent - from 4.02 in 1994 to 2.56 in 1999. In 1998, the risk-adjusted rate was 2.48 percent, which is not statistically different from the 1999 rate.

The fourth report includes statewide and hospital-by-hospital data based on 8,108 bypass procedures. There were 234 deaths before hospital discharge. This year's report also includes surgeon-specific performance data for 1998 and 1999 combined. Surgeon performance was not included in last year's cardiac surgery report, which covered only 1998. Two years' data is needed to develop statistically precise estimates of individual surgeon performance.

According to the report, one hospital - Jersey Shore Medical Center - had a risk-adjusted mortality rate that was significantly better than the state average in 1999. The remaining 13 had rates no different from the statewide average.

Three surgeons had below-average mortality rates in 1998 - 1999, three had above-average rates and the remainder had rates that did not differ from the statewide average. The report names 52 surgeons who performed at least 100 bypass operations in one hospital in 1998-1999.

"Through close collaboration with the medical community, we've been able to develop a useful report based on sound data," Dr. DiFerdinando said. "I would like to thank the Cardiovascular Health Advisory Panel (CHAP) and the Clinical Review Panel for their hard work on this project."

Dr. Charles Dennis, chairman of CHAP, is also president of the American Heart Association Heritage Affiliate and chairman of the Cardiology Department at Deborah Heart and Lung Center. The department's consultant on the project is Dr. Edward Hannan, professor and chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management, State University of New York at Albany.

The report provides data on in-hospital mortality rates for isolated bypass surgery, the most common type of heart surgery procedure. In an isolated bypass, no other major heart procedure is performed at the same time.

The report is available on the department's web site,, or may be obtained by calling 1-888-393-1062.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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