Most hospitals not meeting Leapfrog minimum volume standards for high-risk surgeries

A majority of U.S. hospitals perform high-risk surgeries without meeting healthcare watchdog the Leapfrog Group's minimum volume standards for performing those surgeries safely, which is "very disturbing," according to Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group.

The Leapfrog Group healthcare watchdog group released its "Safety In Numbers" report, which assesses whether hospitals are performing enough high-risk surgeries to have the experience to safely perform them.

It also assesses whether hospitals grant privileges only to surgeons who meet minimum individual volume standards to prove experience in performing high-risk surgeries and whether hospitals actively monitor to ensure the necessity of each surgery performed at their facility.

The 2019 report used data from the 2019 Leapfrog Hospital Survey, which polled more than 2,100 hospitals.

Overall, a higher percentage of hospitals met the minimum volume standards compared to the percentage that did in 2018, but large gaps remain.

Fewer than 10 percent of hospitals surveyed met the minimum volume standards for certain high-risk cancer surgeries in 2019: rectal cancer surgery (9.1 percent); lung resection for cancer (8.4 percent); pancreatic resection for cancer (7.7 percent); esophageal resection for cancer (2.5 percent).

The minimum annual volume standard for:

● Rectal cancer surgery is 16
● Pancreatic resection for cancer is 20
● Esophageal resection for cancer is 20
● Lung resection for cancer is 40

The report does show a positive trend of hospitals avoiding unnecessary cancer surgeries. Most hospitals (70 percent) have protocols in place to ensure only necessary surgeries are being performed among cancer patients.

"The good news is we are seeing progress on surgical safety," said Ms. Binder. "The bad news is the vast majority of hospitals performing these high-risk procedures are not meeting clear volume standards for safety. This is very disturbing, as a mountain of studies show us that patient risk of complications or death is dramatically higher in low-volume operating rooms."

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