Wednesday, May 26, 2010 2:16 PM

Bariatric surgery top-rated two years in a row

Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital has received top ratings again for bariatric surgery. HealthGrades, a national health care ratings organization, ranked the hospital third in the state for its patient outcomes and for the second year in a row gave it a 5-star rating, plus a Bariatric Surgery Excellence Award.

While more and more insurance plans are insisting on a Center of Excellence rating for weight-loss surgery, patients should also be looking for 5-star ratings, asserts HealthGrades’ just-released 5th Annual Bariatric Trends Study. In analyzing surgery outcomes from 19 states, HealthGrades found bariatric surgery patients at top-rated hospitals had, on average, a 67% lower chance of complications and spent a half day less in the hospital compared to patients at low-rated hospitals.

“We strive for perfection,” said Dr. Keith Boone, bariatric surgeon at Fresno Heart & Surgical. “These awards show that commitment to our patients and our commitment to bariatrics in general. But more importantly it shows the hospital’s commitment to the bariatric patient with sensitivity training for all staff, nutritional and psychological support groups for patients and exceptional care.”

Dr. Kelvin Higa, medical director of the hospital’s minimally invasive and bariatric surgery program, agreed. “I think this is a testimony to the dedication of the hospital to take our mission forward.  I’d like to celebrate the fact that we’re a young program – just three years old – and we’ve shown incremental improvement.  We can be very proud that we’re No. 3 in the state. “

Besides a reputation for top clinical quality, Fresno Heart & Surgical has also become known for its expertise in taking on complicated bariatric patients who have other serious diseases or may need a revision of an earlier gastric bypass surgery, Dr. Higa said.

 Obesity has become a major health problem worldwide, said Dr. Boone, and especially in America where the number of overweight and morbidly obese Americans has steadily increased, contributing to rising rates of life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Obesity also increases problems like sleep apnea, respiratory difficulties and joint pain and increases the risk of breast, prostate, colon and endometrial cancers. Along with the increasing obesity rates, the number of bariatric surgeries in the U.S. skyrocketed from 13,386 in 1998 to 220,000 in 2008, HealthGrades’ study found.

“Bariatric surgery has been proven to reduce caloric intake and control obesity, but the HealthGrades study demonstrates that where patients have this type of surgery matters – a great deal,” said Dr. Rick May, a vice president with HealthGrades and a co-author of the study. “There is a subset of U.S. hospitals whose patients, the data shows, routinely have fewer complications and leave the hospital earlier.”

Wanda Holderman, Fresno Heart & Surgical’s chief executive officer, said the hospital’s results were achieved through focus and teamwork. “This recognition is certainly a reflection of the exceptional quality and service of our bariatric program. It is a result of vision, commitment, cooperation and dedicated staff and physicians who are passionate about these patients and the success of the program.”

This latest award builds on Fresno Heart & Surgical’s 5-star reputation. The hospital earned “Best in the Region for cardiac services” accolades two years in a row with 5-star ratings from HeatlhGrades in cardiac bypass surgery in 2007 and for treatment of heart attacks in both 2007 and 2008 and then a 5-star rating for carotid surgery in 2009.

The hospital also received HealthGrades’ Outstanding Patient Experience Award for the past two years, placing it among the top 5% of hospitals nationally based on patient surveys that ask about cleanliness, noise levels, responsiveness, service and communication from staff.

For this study, HealthGrades analyzed 190,502 bariatric procedures performed in the years 2006, 2007 and 2008. The states included in the study are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. The full study and individual hospital ratings for bariatric surgery and other procedures can be found at