Houston's Top Surgeons

New study ranks Houston's top surgeons — and hospitals — for eight medical procedures

Study ranks Houston's top surgeons — and hospitals — for 8 procedures

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While conventional wisdom may tell you simply to choose a top-notch hospital for your next surgical procedure, it’s equally as important to choose a top-notch doctor. File photo

A new study by online independent news source ProPublica may have you thinking twice before going under the knife.

The report advises that while conventional wisdom may tell you simply to choose a top-notch hospital for your next procedure, it’s equally as important to choose a top-notch doctor. Thus, ProPublica has released a Surgeon Scorecard ranking the country's top surgeons and hospitals for eight routine elective procedures.

 ProPublica carefully notes of the study, “We’re not assigning 'fault,' but responsibility.... Experts we interviewed argued that surgeons can and should be held accountable for everything that happens to their patients.” 

The analysis is based on payment data pulled from Medicare (from 2009 to 2013) for nearly 17,000 surgeons at 3,575 U.S. hospitals. Although using Medicare as its only source is limiting, the study states that the information is viable as researchers consider it a reasonable if imperfect proxy for the health care system.

The procedures featured in the Surgeon Scorecard include knee replacements, hip replacements, cervical (neck) spinal fusion, lumbar spinal fusion/posterior (performed on the back portion of the spine), lumbar spinal fusion/anterior (performed on the front portion of the spine), prostate resection and removal, and gallbladder removal.

It's a bit complicated to use the Surgeon Scorecard website, but there's a lot of useful information for those contemplating surgery. We checked two procedures —gallbladder and prostate removal —to compare the performance of surgeons practicing at hospitals in the Houston area.

According to the research, Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital, CHI St. Luke’s Hospital and Park Plaza Hospital rank at the top for gallbladder surgery. Top surgeons performing the procedure at the top-ranked Memorial Hermann Northwest are Dr. Blair Jordan, Dr. Ronnie Adams and Dr. Charles Aramburo. 

The best hospital for prostate removal surgery is Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center followed by Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center and CHI St. Luke’s Hospital. Dr. David K. Ornstein, Dr. Kevin Slawin and Dr. Tung Shu topped the roster of standout surgeons in this procedure at Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center.

Numbers have been adjusted for patient health, age and hospital quality, and do not include information pertaining to patients suffering from trauma or transferred into the hospital from emergency rooms or other facilities like nursing homes. Furthermore, those patients who paid with private health insurance or other government programs like Medicaid have been excluded.

ProPublica carefully notes of the study, “We’re not assigning 'fault,' but responsibility. There are undoubtedly complications counted in our data that were the fault of someone other than the surgeon. But experts we interviewed argued that surgeons can and should be held accountable for everything that happens to their patients.”