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Patients in five-star rated hospitals have, on average, a 64 percent lower chance of developing major complications than one-star hospitals

SEATTLE, Wash. - (July 30, 2007) - Virginia Mason Medical Center announced today that it has been recognized with a five-star rating for clinical excellence in bariatric surgery from HealthGrades®, the nation's leading independent health care ratings organization. Virginia Mason is the only hospital in Seattle to receive the five-star rating from HealthGrades for Bariatric Surgery. The Second Annual HealthGrades Bariatric Surgery Trends in American Hospitals Study includes the analysis of gastric bypass and laparoscopic procedures. 

Morbid obesity is a growing epidemic and major public health problem in America that contributes to additional serious health risks. As a result, there has been a dramatic growth in bariatric surgery over the last decade. 

"Bariatric surgery can have an incredible impact on the health and lives of our patients. I've seen significant reduction in not only dangerously high weight levels of patients, but the elimination of serious health challenges such as diabetes and hypertension," said Jeffrey Hunter, MD, director of the Bariatric Program at Virginia Mason.

The HealthGrades study analyzed the outcomes of 166,410 patients in hospitals in 19 states over the years  2003, 2004 and 2005. The average length of stay for patients undergoing the procedure was 26 percent shorter for five-star hospitals than one-star hospitals. Average mortality rates were low across the board, but the average mortality rate in five star-rated facilities was almost half the rate of all other U.S. hospitals.

According to the study, large quality gaps existed between the "best" and the "worst" hospitals across most bariatric procedures studied. Virginia Mason Medical Center is one of 109 hospitals nationally to receive a five-star rating from HealthGrades. If all hospitals performed at a five-star level, 5,902 patients could have avoided one or more in-hospital complications. 

"We are focused on delivering safe and quality care for our patients. As with any surgery, there are means to prevent complications such as infection. At Virginia Mason we are pleased to be noted for our strong outcomes in this area," Hunter continued.

For its 2007-2008 bariatric surgery ratings, HealthGrades independently analyzed the quality of care at hospitals in the 19 states that publish outcomes data, objectively assessing their clinical performance and quality. HealthGrades risk-adjusted the data to account for hospitals with differing patient populations. Hospitals with risk-adjusted complication rates in the lowest 15 percent received a five-star rating. The 70 percent of hospitals with complication rates that were as expected received a three-star rating, and hospitals with complication rates in the highest 15 percent received a one-star rating.

"The study further validates that the quality of bariatric surgery varies widely from hospital to hospital," explained Samantha Collier, MD, HealthGrades' vice president of medical affairs. "While the most beneficial intervention for morbid obesity is bariatric surgery, it can carry significant risks, which can vary depending on the hospital. Virginia Mason Medical Center rated among the best in the nation with some of the lowest complication rates in the nation for bariatric surgery," Collier added.

Virginia Mason patient Tryfena Lee, 49, who underwent gastric-bypass surgery in October 2005 said, "I was a very sick person and had tried everything to lose weight, but nothing would work for me. Now my life has been given back to me."

HealthGrades' bariatric surgery ratings are published, free of charge, on the HealthGrades consumer Web site: Ratings for 28 other medical procedures and diagnoses - including cardiac, pulmonary, vascular, stroke, orthopedics, critical care, and gastrointestinal procedures and treatments - are also available on the HealthGrades Web site. 

About Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a not-for-profit comprehensive regional health care system that combines a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 400 physicians with a 336-bed acute care Seattle hospital. In addition, Virginia Mason has a network of clinics located throughout the Puget Sound area, and manages Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and adult day health program for people living with HIV and AIDS. Virginia Mason also has an internationally recognized research center, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason.

Media Contacts:

Alisha Mark
Virginia Mason
(206) 341-1509

Scott Shapiro
(720) 963-6584

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