<p>Postoperative mortality is frequently used in hospital comparisons as marker for quality of care. Differences in mortality between hospitals may be explained by varying complication rates. A possible modifying factor may be the ability to let patients with a serious complication survive, referred to as failure to rescue (FTR). The purpose of this study was to evaluate how hospital performance on postoperative mortality is related to severe complications or to FTR and to explore the value of FTR in quality improvement programs.</p><p>All patients operated for colorectal cancer from 2009 to 2011, registered in the Dutch Surgical Colorectal Audit, were included. Logistic regression models were used to obtain adjusted mortality, complication, and FTR rates. Hospitals were grouped into 5 quintiles according to adjusted mortality. Outcomes were compared between quintiles.</p><p>A total of 24,667 patients were included. Severe complications ranged from 19 % in the lowest to 25 % in the highest mortality quintile (odds ratio 1.5, 95 % confidence interval 1.37-1.67). Risk-adjusted FTR rates showed a marked difference between the quintiles, ranging from 9 % to 26 % (odds ratio 3.0, 95 % confidence interval 2.29-3.98). There was significant variability in FTR rates. Seven hospitals had significantly lower FTR rates than average.</p><p>High-mortality hospitals had slightly higher rates of severe complications than low-mortality hospitals. However, FTR was three times higher in high-mortality hospitals than in low-mortality hospitals. In quality improvement projects, feedback to hospitals of FTR rates, along with complication rates, may illustrate shortcomings (prevention or management of complications) per hospital, which may be an important step in reducing mortality.</p>
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