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Child heart op death rate 'halved'

The number of children dying after heart surgery in the UK has halved over the past decade despite a rise in the number and complexity of cases, research has found.

Analysis published in the online journal Open Heart said the findings suggested the focus should be shifted to longer-term survival and other issues such as measures of ill health and impact on children's functional capacity.

Researchers looked at data submitted to the National Institute of Cardiovascular Outcomes Research for all children under 16 between 2000 and 2010 and analysed more than 36,500 episodes of surgery.

These corresponded to more than 30,000 individual patients, 5,000 of whom underwent two or more surgical episodes.

In around one in 20 (4.4%) of these episodes, the child had further surgery within 30 days.

They found the annual number of surgical episodes rose from 2,283 in 2000 to 3,939 in 2009, while the 30-day death rate fell consistently from 4.3% of cases to 2.6%.

The study authors said there had been "strong interest" in children's heart s urgery in the UK since the 1990s, when much higher than expected death rates were found at Bristol Royal Infirmary and more recent plans to reconfigure children's heart surgery services in England had also brought the area of medicine under further scrutiny.

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