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How Big Are the Differences Among Surgeons?

There are big differences among surgeons. For example—

  • For heart valve and bypass surgery, the patients of the best-performing one-tenth of surgeons had death rates of less than 3 percent in-hospital or within 90 days of discharge, compared to death rates of more than 11 percent for patients of the worst-performing one-tenth of surgeons.
  • Similarly, for major small and large bowel surgery, death rates ranged from less than 6 percent for the best-performing one-tenth of surgeons to more than 18 percent for the worst-performing one-tenth.
  • And for total hip and knee replacement, where deaths are rare, the best-performing one-tenth of surgeons had overall bad-outcome rates (prolonged lengths of stay, readmissions, or deaths) of less than 8 percent, while the worst-performing one-tenth had overall bad-outcome rates of more than 21 percent.

The figures below show, for all of the procedure groups we examined, that similar, very large differences exist among individual surgeons.