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INTRODUCTION AND GUIDE TO USING THIS WEBSITE
Welcome to the BAETS Surgeon-Specific Outcomes website.
This site provides data on the outcomes of thyroid surgery performed by BAETS members in the UK between 1st of July 2011 and 30th of June 2015, and is an update of the results published last year as part of NHS England's initiative to publish surgical outcome data from a variety of national audits. Data were extracted from the BAETS database on 23rd January 2017..
Summary of Main Findings
Overall, outcomes are similar to those reported last year.
Mortality of thyroid surgery remains, reassuringly, extremely low, less than 0.1%, with no surgeons reporting a mortality rate greater than that expected by chance. The circumstances of all reported deaths were also examined, and in no case was death directly related to any surgical complications.
Early re-operation to control bleeding in the neck is approximately 1%.
Hospital stay after thyroid surgery is short. After lobectomy, most patients are discharged within 24 hours; after total thyroidectomy, most require only 1-3 days in hospital. Following discharge home, less than 2% require re-admission for reasons related to their surgery.*
Levels of missing data on the main outcome measures continue to improve this year at 8.4% on average.
*Note re-admission rates reported from Royal Bournemouth Hospital are falsely high due to a misunderstanding in data entry
The BAETS Audit
The British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons is a group of UK surgeons with a specialist interest in surgery of the endocrine organs (predominantly the thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands).
Since 2004, the BAETS has operated a national audit of its members' surgical procedures, via an electronic submission format, in conjunction with Dendrite Clinical Systems Ltd., with the aim of documenting certain complications of endocrine surgery. Access to the audit is restricted to full members of the BAETS, with data being entered by the individual member.
Outcomes for thyroidectomy were published at individual surgeon level, for the first time in July 2013, as part of NHS England's national audit initiative, were updated in 2014, 2016 and again in the current publication.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck, and is responsible for producing thyroxine, a hormone involved in the control of the body's metabolism. It is made up of two halves or 'lobes', which lie either side of the trachea (windpipe), joined together by a narrow 'isthmus'.
Removal of all or part of the thyroid may be necessary: to treat thyroid over-activity, to relieve symptoms from enlargement of the thyroid (referred to as 'goitre'), to provide a diagnosis for a lump in the thyroid, or to treat thyroid cancer.
Surgery usually involves removal of either one lobe ('Lobectomy'), the whole thyroid ('Total Thyroidectomy') or the isthmus alone ('Isthmusectomy').
In modern surgical practice, thyroid surgery is very safe, with an extremely low mortality rate. Complications may, however, occur due to injury to delicate surrounding structures, and include:
USING THE WEBSITE
Searching For Results
The results refer to cases operated between 1st July 2011 and 30th June 2015.
Results are published only at individual surgeon level.
Institutional-level data are not published. Hospitals listed are those where BAETS members who have contributed cases operate.
Surgeons may be searched by:
Name (Search by Surgeon):
A drop-down list of contributing members is available, from which an individual can be selected.
Alternatively, if you know the surgeon's name, begin typing in the box, and the list will condense accordingly.
If the name you type is not found, it is likely that the individual is either not a BAETS member, or did not contribute data to the audit during the study period.
Hospital (Search by Hospital):
A drop-down list is available, from which a hospital can be selected.
Alternatively, begin typing a hospital name in the box and the list will condense accordingly.
If the hospital name you type is not found, it is likely that no BAETS members operated there, or that any such members did not contribute data, during the study period. It cannot be inferred that thyroid surgery is not undertaken there.
Either insert a relevant postcode or type in the name of your local town/village. Press 'search by my postcode' and this will load a map showing your location and surrounding hospitals which can be linked to the BAETS audit data. Clicking on the blue hospital icon will link directly to the relevant surgeons' data.
If your local hospital does not appear, it is likely that no BAETS members operated there, or that any such members did not contribute data, during the study period. It cannot be inferred that thyroid surgery is not undertaken there.
Once a surgeon is selected, the following data are presented:
Hospital(s) at which the surgeon operated during the study period.
Dates where cases have been contributed to the audit (so that allowance can be made for e.g. surgeons being newly appointed or retiring from thyroid surgery during the period of study).
Outcomes (accessed by clicking on the 'View Graph' icons):
Results are principally expressed graphically, with accompanying explanatory text.
Complication rates are generally the number of patients having the relevant complication, divided by the total number of cases for that surgeon, so that lower rates usually reflect 'better' results.
In the 'funnel plots', results within the central area (below the red lines and above the green lines) are 'within range' i.e. statistically indistinguishable from the average. Results above the red lines show a significantly higher than expected rate of the complication in question.
Further guidance on the interpretation of funnel plots is included in the following section.
Please also see the Frequently Asked Questions and Glossary links for further information.
Clicking 'Search Again' redirects you to the main Search page.
Guide to Interpretation of Results and Making Comparisons Between Surgeons
Care should be taken in making comparisons between surgeons on the basis of any national audit data, for the following reasons:
A. Data Quality
Any audit relies on the collection, transfer and analysis of information, resulting in a number of potential problems in the quality of the data, including:
In the BAETS Audit, responsibility for collection and entry of data onto the audit system rests with the individual surgeon. This may help in ensuring that outcomes are accurately recorded, as there is no reliance on coding of outcomes by third parties, and it is in surgeons' own interests to ensure that results attributed to them are correct. However, it can also contribute to greater levels of missing data, due to limitations or competing priorities on the time allocated to surgeons for such audit activity.
With any operation, the risk of certain complications occurring may be affected by features of the patient being operated upon, such as their age or the presence of co-existing illnesses; or by the complexity of the particular operation.
Surgeons taking on more complex cases might therefore be expected to have a higher complication rate, even if their performance is no worse than the average.
For some operations the factors affecting results are well known, and some allowance (or 'risk-adjustment') can be made during analysis, to account for case-mix. In endocrine surgery there are no established mathematical models to make such an allowance. However, previous analyses show that risks of thyroid surgery are higher for:
For this reason, some outcomes are reported only for first-time surgery and exclude level 6 lymph node dissection. Even in these sub-groups, however, there may be variation in case-mix, contributing to any observed difference in results between different surgeons.
C. Variation in measurement of outcomes
Ascertaining whether or not a complication has occurred is relatively straightforward in some cases e.g. in-hospital mortality, where the outcome is unambiguous and uniformly recorded. For other outcomes, however, this may be complicated by differences in measuring, interpreting and recording the outcome.
This is relevant particularly for 'Late Hypocalcaemia' and 'Vocal cord assessment':
'Late Hypocalcaemia' is currently defined as 'the need for calcium +/- Vitamin D supplements to maintain normal blood calcium levels at 6 months'. This is intended to be a surrogate measure of permanent parathyroid damage.
For 'Vocal Cord Assessment' other considerations apply:
The rate of vocal cord palsy for any surgeon can therefore be affected by the make up of their practice, the proportion of their cases having a post-operative vocal cord check, and at what interval after surgery this is performed, as well as the quality of surgery.
For these reasons, this report concentrates on surgeons' rates of performance of post-operative laryngoscopy and degree of missing data. Data on persistent vocal cord palsy should be considered approximate only, so that comparison between surgeons with respect to this outcome cannot be considered valid at present.
For a more complete analysis of this issue, please see the 4th National BAETS Audit (pages 94-97) report at http://www.baets.org.uk/audit/
D. Random Variation; Interpretation of Funnel Plots
Even when the overall risk of a surgical complication is known, the exact number of complications observed for any one surgeon will be prone to some random variation.
Statistical methods can help identify whether or not the observed variation might be expected by chance alone. Traditionally, 'confidence intervals' are calculated, outlining the limits beyond which chance is less likely to explain the observed variation in outcome. For the purpose of comparing individual surgeons, confidence limits of 99.9% are often used.
For some outcomes, comparison between surgeons can be shown in the form of a 'funnel plot', as in the example below, and this format is used for some of the outcomes reported here. Each surgeon is represented by a 'dot', showing that individual's number of cases and the corresponding percentage of those cases having the complication in question. The black line shows the average complication rate for the whole group of patients (across all surgeons), while the green and red lines show the limits of the confidence intervals, in this example with pre-set values of 99% and 99.9%.
Results within the central funnel (between red and green lines) are considered 'within control limits' i.e. not statistically significantly different from the average.
Results outside the central funnel are very unlikely to have arisen by chance alone, if the surgeon's performance were truly average (0.1% or 1in 1,000).
Other reasons are more likely to explain such results. These might include inaccurate data entry and differences in measuring outcomes, as well as poorer surgical performance.
The example funnel plot below would suggest three individuals whose results are likely to be 'truly' higher than average.
The BAETS remains committed to using its national audit data to improve the quality of information available on surgical outcomes, and to help contribute to professional development of its membership. This website represents one facet of this process.
Updates at least annually, with additional information on other types of endocrine surgery, are anticipated.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the aim of the BAETS Endocrine Surgery Registry?
The aim of the registry is to provide information on outcomes of endocrine surgery (principally surgery on the thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands) in the UK, in order to improve standards of care, through a process of continuous audit.
Who is responsible for running the Registry?
The registry is a collaborative project operated by the British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons (BAETS) with Dendrite Clinical Systems Ltd.
The BAETS is a specialist association of British surgeons who have an interest in endocrine surgery, and is recognized as such by the Department of Health, the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland, and the British Association of Surgical Oncology.
Dendrite Clinical Systems Ltd. is a specialist supplier of clinical databases, operating multiple national and international clinical databases.
Data Submission and Ownership
Patient data are anonymised at the point of data submission. Dendrite Clinical Systems Ltd. hold the key to surgeon and hospital codes, but do not hold data enabling identification of any individual patient. Data are held centrally by Dendrite Clinical Systems in accordance with UK Data Protection laws. Data cannot be released without the written permission of the BAETS.
How are the data used?
Analyses of the data are published approximately every few years, providing an anonymous summary of surgeons' case-loads, types of conditions treated, ranges of operations performed, and the resulting clinical outcomes (complication rates). Copies of the latest report are available on the BAETS website at www.baets.org.uk
Since 2013, the data have been used to publish individual BAETS members' outcomes for thyroid surgery, in comparison with the national averages. The data presented on this website represent an update of this process.
Individual surgeons are also able to view/download their own results, enabling feedback on their own performance, and thereby contributing to continuous improvements in outcomes. The BAETS also has an 'outlier' policy, whereby surgeons whose nationally published outcomes appear significantly worse than expected can be notified and supported to identify potential areas for improvement.
What results are available on this website?
The website shows, for each named surgeon:
The number of thyroid operations performed in the four years up to 30th June 2014, and for these cases:
Why are the published outcomes restricted to thyroid surgery?
Thyroidectomy represents the commonest type of endocrine surgery, and was therefore felt to be most appropriate for the first rounds of outcomes publication.
It is planned, however, to expand the range of outcomes published in future, including those of other endocrine operations, such as parathyroid and adrenal surgery.
What is the relevance of mortality rates in thyroid surgery?
Death after thyroid surgery is, reassuringly, extremely rare. In most cases, such deaths are not directly related to the surgical procedure, and may be due to heart attacks or strokes, for instance. Rarely, some thyroid operations may be performed to alleviate symptoms in patients with advanced cancer, where subsequent death results from the underlying disease, rather than the surgery itself.
By chance, surgeons will therefore inevitably have either one or no patients dying after thyroid surgery, and there are no statistically sound methods to compare such low complication rates.
All confirmed reported deaths are also scrutinized to ensure that none are related to the quality of surgery.
Mortality rates are reported for completeness, but, for thyroid surgery, are not considered related to the quality of surgical care.
Why is my local hospital/named surgeon not listed?
The published results derive solely from the BAETS audit database, which is only accessed by BAETS members. Data submission has traditionally been voluntary, although recently has become a mandatory aspect of BAETS membership.
Not all surgeons who perform thyroid surgery are members of the BAETS.
Surgeons may therefore not be listed if they are not BAETS members or they are members who have not submitted data for the period of analysis.
Hospitals may not be listed if they do not have a BAETS member who contributed data for the period of analysis.
Why can I not view all surgeons' outcomes together e.g. in a table?
Expressing results in the form of 'league tables' is very prone to misinterpretation, particularly for many of the outcomes presented here, where:
The BAETS feel that results are better expressed by alternative means, including funnel plots, which allow for improved understanding of an individual surgeon's results within the spread of data.
Who might find the published information useful?
Patients may find reassurance that their surgeon is participating in a process of professional audit, and may wish to ascertain how often their surgeon performs thyroid surgery, what types of surgery are performed, and how that surgeon's complication rates compare with those of other thyroid specialists. This information may be useful in discussions with a patient's General Practitioner regarding referral to a thyroid specialist, but cannot replace GP's local knowledge, and is not recommended as the sole means for selecting a thyroid surgeon.
GP's and Health Service Commissioners might find the data helpful in supplementing knowledge of local services in thyroid surgery.
Hospital Medical Directors and Executive Boards may refer to the data, to confirm that their local specialists are contributing to national audit and that their performance is acceptable, or to put in place remedial action if that is not the case.
Surgeons will gain improved insight into their own performance, helping to maintain or improve standards.
Healthcare Researchers may derive useful academic information.
British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons: a group of UK surgeons with a specialist interest in surgery of the endocrine system.
A common cause of thyroid enlargement where the thyroid is occupied by multiple, non-cancerous nodules (lumps). May cause symptoms due to the size of the thyroid or sometimes due to over-production of thyroid hormones, when surgery can be used in treatment.Often also referred to as 'multi-nodular goitre'.
Relating to those organs responsible for producing hormones (substances released into the bloodstream which regulate the function of other, remote organs).
Thyroid surgery, where no previous surgery on the thyroid gland has been performed; as distinct from re-operative thyroidectomy.
Enlargement of the thyroid gland.
A disease of the thyroid gland in which the body's immune system produces antibodies, which can stimulate growth and activity of thyroid cells.One of the commonest causes of an over-active thyroid (thyrotoxicosis), when thyroidectomy can be used in treatment.
A method of showing a surgeon's results, compared to those of all surgeons, and to the national average. See Introduction section for guidance on interpretation of funnel plots.
Low calcium levels in the blood. May arise after thyroid surgery, due to damage of the parathyroid glands, which sit next to the thyroid, and which control blood calcium levels.
Inspection of the vocal cords and their movements, usually by a flexible telescope inserted through the nose as an outpatient procedure.
Removal of one half (or 'lobe') of the thyroid
Lymph node dissection:
Removal of certain lymph nodes in the neck, usually as part of treatment for some thyroid cancers.
Lymph nodes are small, oval organs, present throughout the body, which are part of the immune system, acting as filters for foreign particles and cancer cells.
Recurrent laryngeal nerves:
Nerves to the voice box, responsible for controlling the movements of the vocal cords, important for voice production and coughing. May be injured in thyroid surgery.
A gland situated in the neck, responsible for regulating the body's metabolism, by production of thyroid hormones.
Removal of the thyroid gland.
The principal hormone released by the thyroid, and which may be taken as a tablet to replace the function of the thyroid after thyroidectomy.
Removal of the whole thyroid gland.
Vocal Cord Palsy:
Loss of the normal movements of one or other vocal cord, which may be due to injury of the recurrent laryngeal nerve(s) during thyroid surgery. May result in a hoarse/weak voice and swallowing difficulties.
Contains 'goitrogens' (chemicals which may increase thyroid size, by interfering with iodine uptake)
Source of iodine (which is used in production of thyroid hormones)
Thyroid size is higher in mountainous areas due to lower dietary iodine intake
An essential element in the production of thyroid hormones
First animal in which the parathyroid glands were recognized (1850)
A source of Vitamin D (controls calcium levels, along with the parathyroids)
The BAETS is the representative body of British Surgeons who have a specialist
interest in surgery of the endocrine glands (thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal).
The BAETS is recognised by the Department of Health, the Association of Surgeons
of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) and the British Association of Surgical Oncology (BASO).
Tel: 020 7304 4771
Fax: 020 7430 9235
Association of Surgeons of Great Britain & Ireland
35-43 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3PE