The Society of Thoracic Surgeons recently awarded Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cardiac Surgery team a 3-star (highest possible) rating for all three ranked procedures, including Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG), Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR) and CABG+AVR, a combination of the two. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) has established a comprehensive rating system to compare the quality of cardiac surgery among hospitals across the county. Looking at data from January 2014 to December 2016, Mass General is among the 1.4% of hospitals that achieved an overall 3-star rating for all three STS categories.

Here, chief of Mass General’s Division of Cardiac Surgery, Thoralf Sundt, MD, explains the STS rating.

What is the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ 3-Star Rating for CABG, AVR and CABG+AVR and why is it so significant?

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) is the largest United States organization of cardiothoracic surgeons and they collect data from the majority of cardiothoracic surgical programs in this country. The STS has developed a sophisticated star rating system that is considered the standard performance measure in cardiac surgery. Three stars is the highest attainable rating, assigned only to programs that exceed expectations. This is a very high bar to meet, and only 14 programs in the United States currently obtain three stars in all three of the designated ranked categories. This puts Mass General among the highest quality programs in the nation as measured objectively by members of our own specialty.

What does this 3-Star Rating say about the Cardiac Surgery Department at Massachusetts General Hospital?

This rating is a quality assessment from outside of our own institution by a national organization. Considering that only 14 programs in the country obtain this designation in all three ranked categories, we are extremely proud to be publicly recognized for our high quality care.

How important is quality to your team of Cardiac Surgeons and Massachusetts General Hospital overall?

Delivering the highest quality care is not only central to our mission, but to our identity. The institutional commitment to excellent care is exhibited by the remarkable loyalty of our staff as well as the high willingness of our patients to recommend Mass General to others. This is a central value that comes through in everything we do.

CABG, AVR and CABG+AVR are complex, high-risk procedures. How does your team ensure they are continuously evolving to provide the best outcomes?

These are the three most commonly performed cardiac surgical procedures in this institution and nationwide. Measuring our quality of care in these areas is a bit like scoring the compulsory program in a gymnastics competition. It tells you a lot about the fundamental skills and capabilities of the organization and the care team.

Of course, a great deal of what we do falls outside these categories as we continue to press the limits of the care we can provide. Whether it be hybrid procedures performed in combination with our cardiology and vascular surgery colleagues, or replacement therapies such as ventricular assist device (VAD) implantation and cardiac transplantation, our engagement in the academic cardiac surgical community keeps us at the forefront of techniques and technologies in our field and encourages us to continue to innovate.

Learn more about Mass General's Division of Cardiac Surgery.