Surgeon Quality and Patient Survival after Resection for Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer


PURPOSEThe quality and outcomes of curative-intent lung cancer surgery vary in populations. Surgeons are key drivers of surgical quality. We examined the association between surgeon-level intermediate outcomes differences, patient survival differences, and potential mitigation by processes of care.PATIENTS AND METHODSUsing a baseline population-based surgical resection cohort, we derived surgeon-level cut points for rates of positive margins, nonexamination of lymph nodes, nonexamination of mediastinal lymph nodes, and wedge resections. Applying the baseline cut points to a subsequent cohort from the same population-based data set, we assign surgeons into three performance categories in reference to each metric: 1 (<25th percentile), 2 (25th-75th percentile), and 3 (>75th percentile). The sum of performance scores created three surgeon quality tiers: 1 (4-6, low), 2 (7-9, intermediate), and 3 (10-12, high). We used chi-squared, Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney, and Kruskal-Wallis tests to compare patient characteristics between the baseline and subsequent cohorts and across surgeon tiers. We applied Cox proportional hazards models to examine the association between patient survival and surgeon performance tier, sequentially adjusting for clinical stage, patient characteristics, and four specific processes.RESULTSFrom 2009 to 2021, 39 surgeons performed 4,082 resections across the baseline and subsequent cohorts. Among 31 subsequent cohort surgeons, five were tier 1, five were tier 2, and 21 were tier 3. Tier 1 and 2 surgeons had significantly worse outcomes than tier 3 surgeons (hazard ratio [HR], 1.37; 95% CI, 1.10 to 1.72 and 1.19; 95% CI, 1.00 to 1.43, respectively). Adjustment for specific processes mitigated the surgeon-Tiered survival differences, with adjusted HRs of 1.02 (95% CI, 0.8 to 1.3) and 0.93 (95% CI, 0.7 to 1.25), respectively.CONCLUSIONReadily accessible intermediate outcomes metrics can be used to stratify surgeon performance for targeted process improvement, potentially reducing patient survival disparities.

Publication Title

Journal of Clinical Oncology