There is known variation in perioperative mortality rates across hospitals. However, the extent to which this variation is associated with hospital-level differences in longer-term survival has not been characterized.
To evaluate the association between hospital perioperative quality and long-term survival after noncardiac surgery.
This national cohort study included 654 093 US veterans who underwent noncardiac surgery at 98 hospitals using data from the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2016. Data were analyzed between January 1 and November 1, 2021.
Hospitals were stratified separately into quintiles of reliability-adjusted failure to rescue (FTR) and mortality rates. Patients were further categorized as having a complicated or uncomplicated postoperative course.
The association between hospital FTR or mortality performance quintile (with quintile 1 representing low FTR or mortality and quintile 5 representing very high FTR or mortality) and overall risk of death was evaluated separately using multivariable shared frailty modeling among patients with a complicated and uncomplicated postoperative course.
For the overall cohort of 654 093 patients, the mean (SD) age was 61.1 (13.2) years; 597 515 (91.4%) were men and 56 578 (8.7%) were women; 111 077 (17.0%) were Black, 5953 (0.9%) were Native American, 467 969 (71.5%) were White, 42 219 (6.5%) were missing a racial category, and 26 875 (4.1%) were of another race; and 37 538 (5.7%) were Hispanic. Hospital-level 5-year survival for patients with a complicated course ranged from 42.7% (95% CI, 38.1%-46.9%) to 82.4% (95% CI, 59.0%-93.2%) and from 76.2% (95% CI, 74.4%-78.0%) to 95.2% (95% CI, 92.5%-97.7%) for patients with an uncomplicated course. Overall, 47 (48.0%) and 83 (84.7%) of 98 hospitals were either in the same or within 1 performance quintile for FTR and mortality, respectively. Among patients who had a postoperative complication, there was a dose-dependent association between care at hospitals with higher FTR rates and risk of death (compared with quintile 1: quintile 2 hazard ratio [HR], 1.05 [95% CI, 0.99-1.12]; quintile 3 HR, 1.17 [95% CI, 1.10-1.26]; quintile 4 HR, 1.30 [95% CI, 1.22-1.38]; and quintile 5 HR, 1.34 [95% CI, 1.22-1.43]). Similarly, increasing hospital FTR rates were associated with increasing risk of death among patients without complications (compared with quintile 1: quintile 2 HR, 1.07 [95% CI, 1.01-1.14]; quintile 3 HR, 1.10 [95% CI, 1.04-1.16]; quintile 4 HR, 1.15 [95% CI, 1.09-1.21]; and quintile 5 HR, 1.10 [95% CI, 1.05-1.19]). These findings were similar across hospital mortality quintiles for patients with complicated and uncomplicated courses.
The findings of this cohort study suggest that the structures, processes, and systems of care that underlie the association between FTR and worse short-term outcomes may also have an influence on long-term survival through a pathway other than rescue from complications. A better understanding of these differences could lead to strategies that address variation in both perioperative and longer-term outcomes.