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Death on the waiting list for cardiac surgery in the Netherlands in 1994 and 1995


OBJECTIVE To describe the causes and circumstances of death regarding patients who died in 1994 and 1995 while on a waiting list for cardiac surgery in the Netherlands.

DESIGN Retrospective multicentre case study.

SETTING 11 Dutch cardiac surgery centres.

PATIENTS All patients reported as dying while on the waiting list for cardiac surgery in 1994 and 1995.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Classification of death by an independent adjudication committee into “erroneously reported”, “waiting list related” or “not waiting list related”. Death was judged as “waiting list related” if the clinical course would have been substantially different if there had been unrestricted surgical capacity.

RESULTS 138 and 129 deaths were reported in 1994 and 1995, respectively. 43 deaths (16%) were considered as erroneously reported. 181 of the remaining 224 cases were adjudicated as waiting list related. Median time from acceptance for surgery to death was 35 days (interquartile range 14–75 days). 97 of 181 deaths occurred within six weeks following addition to the waiting list. The estimated incidence of death ranged from 1.33 per 1000 patient-weeks during weeks 2–4 to 0.68 per 1000 patient-weeks after 12 weeks.

CONCLUSIONS The causes and circumstances of death are waiting list related for approximately 100 patients per year in the Netherlands. At least half of the deaths may occur within the first six weeks. Waiting lists for cardiac surgery engender high risks for the patients involved.

  • waiting lists
  • heart surgery
  • mortality
  • coronary bypass surgery

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