Increasing complexity in cardiac operations has raised the discussion on trainee autonomy and the number of cases required to achieve competency. This study compares outcomes among cases done by trainees vs consultants for high risk patients. 696 (trainee=158 vs consultant=438) major high risk cardiac operations (Euroscore >10) were reviewed at a single center. Observations were propensity matched to consultant or trainee based on several baseline characteristics. Euroscore was: Trainee; 12.3 ± 1.6 versus Consultant; 12.8 ± 2.2, p=.036. Multivariable analysis did not identify trainee as a risk factor for worse in-hospital mortality (OR; 0.95, CI; 0.4-2.2, p=.914) or composite outcome of length of stay >30 days, deep sternal infection, new hemodialysis, new stroke or transient ischemic attack, in-hospital death or reoperation (OR; 0.64, CI; 0.39-1.03, p=.069). NYHA class, diabetes and emergency/salvage surgery were predictors of worse composite outcome. After propensity matching (130 pairs), there was no difference in reoperation rates (3.1% versus 4.6%, p=.727), inhospital death (5.4% versus 7.7%, p=.607) or composite outcome (20.8% versus 29.2%, p=.152). There was no statistical difference in cross clamp times (Trainee; 74.0 ± 32.7 min vs Consultant; 82.6 ± 51.1, p=.229) and bypass times (Trainee; 116.3 ± 52.8 min versus Consultant 135.3 ± 72.6 min, p=.055). The length of stay was similar (18.2 ± 13.2 days versus 19.9 ± 15.6 days, p=.302). It is possible for trainees to perform high risk cardiac surgery without compromising the quality of patient care.
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