Heart Institute

Cardiac Surgical Survival at the Heart Institute

The Department of Cardiac Surgery in the Heart Institute aims to provide pre-operative consultative services, as well as a comprehensive circulatory support program, including ventricular assist devices (VAD), extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and perfusion services.

In conjunction with our hospital-wide Target Zero initiative to eliminate preventable harm, the Heart Institute works diligently to prevent surgical site infections through consistent attention to antibiotic administration and postoperative incision care.

Learn about Children’s Hospital Colorado’s preventive measures for hospital-acquired conditions.

What is surgical survival?

According to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), "surgical survival" is defined as being alive at least 30 days after a procedure and having been discharged alive from the hospital. Utilizing the STS definition ensures that consistent data reporting methods are utilized by institutions across the country. The STS database is updated every six months, and from this database, the national average is reported.

We have excellent outcomes

Children's Colorado has a high success rate for heart surgery both regionally and nationally. We continue to improve our surgical outcomes through continuous monitoring of the quality of our performance. One of the benchmarks of the quality of a pediatric heart center is the outcome of children who have complex heart disease and require precise surgical repair. Care of children with this heart anatomy requires a team of specialists to help them grow and develop to their full potential. As you see in the table below, patients who have complex cardiac surgeries at Children's Colorado have exceptional outcomes. Outcomes of the other listed surgeries are used by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons as indicators of surgical quality.

The STAT categories are a data-driven method that the STS uses to compare patient complexity based on a patient’s risk of mortality from their surgical procedure. Category 1 has the least risk of death, while Category 5 has the highest risk.

Heart Surgical Survival Rates June 2015

Heart Surgical Survival 4 Years Rates June 2015


Heart Mortality By STAT Jun 2015

Percent Mortality Compared to STS June 2015


Heart Surgery Average Length of Stay Jun 2015

How is the Heart Institute at Children's Colorado working to improve our surgical survival rates?

In the Heart Institute at Children's Colorado, we continue to pursue ways of providing excellent patient care and outcomes. To continue this endeavor, we have implemented a number of quality-improvement initiatives to help improve our performance and continue doing what we do best: fixing little hearts. Some of our initiatives include:

  • Optimizing nutrition and growth of our patients
  • Reducing surgical site and catheter-related blood stream infections
  • Decreasing the number of days a patient stays in the hospital after heart surgery

The Heart Institute approaches patient care as a team. Our team consists of specialized physicians, anesthesiologists, nurses, nutritionists, perfusionists, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and lab technicians. Our team approach ensures that every patient receives the best care possible, customized for each and every child.

Why do we measure surgical survival at the Heart Institute?

Survival after heart surgery is the most important measure of the success of a cardiac surgical procedure (although it is not the only outcome measure we routinely monitor and analyze). The number of children and adults who survive surgery for congenital heart disease has increased significantly over the last 15 years, which has helped us concentrate on preventing complications that may occur during a hospital stay after heart surgery.

In addition to survival rates, the STS database includes important information about surgical complications. This allows us to analyze survival data in conjunction with complication data, so we can compare ourselves to other programs across the country. This helps us better understand how we are performing as a program, as well as, identify areas for improvement.

About this data

What is the source of this data?

This information is from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) Congenital Heart Surgery Database which is the largest congenital heart surgery database and includes 111 North American hospitals (108 US and 3 Canadian).

Do we have a national benchmark?      

Yes, the STS database allows us to compare our outcomes to other congenital heart surgery programs in North America. We, along with these other programs, submit data to the STS twice per year. The STS verifies the integrity of the data and generates reports that allow us to compare results with our peers across the country.

How often should the data be updated?

We continually track patient outcomes and will publicly report data on this website.

Read about our heart transplant survival rates.