Brigham Awarded First Three-Star STS Rating for Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting Procedures

Medical team works in modern operating room performing cardiac surgery

For the first time in Brigham and Women’s Hospital history, the Division of Cardiac Surgery has earned a distinguished three-star rating from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for its patient care and outcomes in isolated coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) procedures.

“This rating is not only a huge honor, but it is a testament to the quality of the work that is being done here at the Brigham,” states George Tolis, MD, section chief of Coronary Surgery and General Cardiac Surgery in the division. “It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work that many people have put in.”

The STS three-star rating, calculated using a data-driven combination of quality measures, denotes the highest category of quality and places the division among the elite for heart bypass surgery in the United States and Canada.

“This is the result of outstanding teamwork among all our heart team members and an example of excellent leadership by Dr. Tolis,” says Raphael Bueno, MD, chief of the Division of Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery.

CABG Procedures at the Brigham

Coronary disease is the number one cause of adult mortality in the developed world, and the most common form involves blockages in the coronary arteries, which provide blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. These blockages starve the heart of oxygen and result in inadequate blood delivery to the rest of the body.

The most time-tested, durable, and cost-effective surgical treatment for these blockages is an isolated CABG procedure. During this procedure, surgeons use the patient’s own arteries and veins harvested from the upper or lower extremities to reroute blood around the artery blockages. This re-establishes blood flow in oxygen-starved parts of the patient’s heart muscle.

“Close to 50% of the surgeries that our surgeons perform are bypass operations,” says Dr. Tolis. “When we are judged [highly] by the STS, it’s a major testament to the outstanding care delivered to patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery at the Brigham.”

The STS three-star rating is awarded to programs demonstrating excellence in CABG outcomes, including freedom from mortality and several morbidities, such as stroke, renal failure, or wound infection. Only 3%–7% of cardiac surgical programs achieve this award, which is given annually based on data released each quarter since the STS National Database was established in 1989.

“Patients should know that when they come to the Brigham to get a bypass,” Dr. Tolis states, “they’re getting among the best care in the country.”

A Culture of Collaboration

Multiple surgical fields are involved for procedures like CABG, from valvular and heart failure to organ transplant and arrhythmia. A collaborative culture is continuously embodied across the Brigham’s Cardiac Surgical Program, a regional and national leader in other aspects of coronary care not covered by the STS rating—such as liberal use of arterial grafts for bypass, and off-pump procedures for patients deemed too high risk for traditional on-pump surgery.

“We have expertise in every single field of cardiac surgery,” says Dr. Tolis. “There’s excellent collaboration between the Division of Thoracic and Cardiac surgery and the Department of Surgery. This three-star rating is the culmination of a lot of hard work that many people have put in.”

The STS rating, one of the most sophisticated and highly regarded overall measures of quality in healthcare, is truly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the level of care delivered at the Brigham. This standard expands not just over coronary care, but over all aspects of cardiac medical, interventional, and surgical care available.

“Referring physicians and patients should feel very comfortable choosing Brigham and Women’s Hospital,” Dr. Tolis states. “Not only for treatment of coronary disease, but for any condition that involves the human heart.”

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