Achieving a 3-Star Society of Thoracic Surgery Lobectomy Ranking by Using Continuing Process Improvement, Lean Methodology, and Root Cause Analysis

Academic Article


  • Our purpose is to identify the metrics used by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) to rank lobectomy and to show our process to improve. This is a review of our STS data for lobectomy and our results using the process of root cause analysis and lean methodology to improve our outcomes. The STS metrics are 30-day mortality, pneumonia, adult respiratory distress syndrome, bronchopleural fistula, pulmonary embolus, initial ventilator support greater than 48 hours, reintubation and respiratory failure, tracheostomy, myocardial infarction, or unexpected return to the operating room. Sixteen of 231 programs (7%) were ranked 3-star over a 3-year period from July 2011 to June 2014. The most common root cause analysis was failure to escalate care. The lean and process improvements we employed that seemed to improve the results were increasing exercise before surgery, adding a respiratory therapist, eliminating Foley catheters and arterial lines to reduce infection and to increase ambulation, offering stereotactic radiotherapy for marginal patients, favoring left upper segmentectomy over left upper lobectomy, and performing 91% of the last 493 lobectomies via a minimally invasive platform. Our major morbidity complications from August 2003 to December 2014 fell from 9.5% to 5.3% (P = 0.001) and mortality decreased from 3.3% to 0.54% (P < 0.0001). The metrics the STS used to rank lobectomy programs are 30-day mortality and predominantly respiratory complications. Root cause analysis, lean methodology, and process improvements allowed us to improve our lobectomy patient outcomes over time and to achieve a 3-star ranking over a 3-year time frame. These results may be obtainable by others.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Cerfolio RJ; Minnich DJ; Wei B; Watson C; DeCamp MM
  • Start Page

  • 550
  • End Page

  • 557
  • Volume

  • 29
  • Issue

  • 4