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New ACS NSQIP® Surgical Risk Calculator Offers Personalized, Accurate Estimates of Surgical Complications to Patients and Surgeons


Journal of the American College of Surgeons study reports that new web-based tool effectively aids the informed decision-making process by educating patients about their operations; its use may become a quality reporting requirement for surgeons

The new American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP®) Surgical Risk Calculator is a revolutionary new tool that quickly and easily estimates patient-specific postoperative complication risks for almost all operations, according to research findings appearing online in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. The study will be published in a print edition of the Journal later this year. 

Surgeons and patients have long been seeking an accurate decision-support tool to estimate patients’ risks of complications after surgical procedures. This process is essential for patient-centered care, shared decision making with patients, and true informed consent. Moreover, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—through the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS)—may soon provide a financial incentive for surgeons to calculate the risks of operations using the Surgical Risk Calculator and to discuss these patient-specific risks with patients prior to elective operations performed in the U.S.

“Predicting postoperative risks and identifying patients at a higher risk of complications, has traditionally been based on anecdotal experience of the individual surgeon or small studies from other institutions. Importantly, these risk estimates have been generic and not specific to an individual patient’s risk factors. To have truly informed consent and shared decision making with a patient, we need the ability to provide customized, personal risk estimates for patients undergoing any operation,” according to Karl Bilimoria, MD, FACS, ACS faculty scholar, Director of the Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center at Northwestern University, Chicago, and lead author of the study. Bilimoria is Assistant Professor in Surgical Oncology and Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

For the study, Dr. Bilimoria and colleagues used highly detailed and accurate ACS NSQIP data collected from nearly 400 hospitals and 1.4 million patients to develop a universal surgical risk calculator that covers more than 1,500 unique surgical procedures across multiple specialties. The authors leveraged the highly accurate outcomes data collected by ACS NSQIP to create the Surgical Risk Calculator.

The risk calculator has been released publicly and is available to surgeons, clinicians, and the public at: According to Dr. Bilimoria, enhancements to the calculator will be made regularly with additional outcomes added to the tool in the coming months, as well as release of mobile versions. 

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