Mortality rate after pediatric cardiac surgeries launches probe

All elective cardiac surgeries on pediatric patients have been suspended at a medical facility in West Palm Beach after an investigation launched by CNN uncovered abnormally high death rates.

The pediatric heart surgery program at St. Mary’s Medical Center was discovered to have an open heart surgery mortality rate that is three times greater than the nation’s average.

The expose revealed that, since 2011, a minimum of nine infants died after having open heart surgery at the medical center. Since the article was published, a federal investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been initiated, as the majority of pediatric patients in the center’s open heart surgery program were recipients of Medicaid medical benefits.

The hospital issued a press release stating that they were conducting their own “comprehensive review” of their program using outside experts. The release also stated there were “no elective pediatric congenital cardiac surgery cases scheduled, and [none would be] schedule[d]…until we have completed our review.” Their definition of “elective” was not included, however.

In 2013, a review of the program by an expert panel sponsored by the state led the panel chairman to advise the facility to discontinue further surgeries on infants younger than six months. The hospital ignored the advice and continued the surgeries.

According to CNN, state records submitted by the facility show that between 2011 and 2013, there were 48 pediatric open heart surgeries. The mortality rate for that two-year period was 12.5 percent. The national death rate for infants undergoing the same type of surgeries during the same period was only 3.3 percent.

The fragility of an infant’s tiny body, already stressed by congenital abnormalities, dictates that surgeons must call upon all of their skills and finesse when performing procedures on these little ones.

Parents of infants who died post-surgery may have a cause of action to file a wrongful death lawsuit with the Florida courts.

Source: CNN, “Hospital suspends elective heart surgeries on children after CNN investigation,” Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield, June 08, 2015