UNC Children's releases risk-adjusted mortality data after yearlong legal fight with New York Times

UNC Children's Hospital shared risk-adjusted outcomes data for its cardiac surgery program June 17, which shows mortality rates continued to rise after cardiologists voiced their concerns about the program's quality and safety, reports The New York Times.

The data's release follows a yearlong legal battle in which the Times sued the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based hospital for access to undisclosed outcomes data. UNC Children's shared the data this week in conjunction with an announcement that it would temporarily pause complex heart surgeries while health officials investigate its cardiac surgery program.

The data set shows observed and expected mortality rates for five categories of pediatric cardiac surgeries ranked by complexity. Between January 2015 and December 2018, UNC Children's reported higher than expected mortality rates for all but one surgical complexity category, according to The News & Observer.

For example, seven of the 12 most complicated pediatric heart surgeries performed at the hospital resulted in death over the four-year period. That translates to an observed mortality rate of 58.3 percent for this surgical category, far higher than the hospital's expected mortality rate of 17.3 percent. 

In a statement on its website, UNC Children's noted the surgical categories "are imperfect and do not uniformly account for how sick a child is." The hospital also said the outcomes data "does not capture several risk factors that disproportionately impact our patient population as North Carolina's safety net hospital."

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