Heart surgery plus the hospital you choose is serious business. Consumer Reports (CR) can help. Our CR colleagues published an informative report on heart surgery to help you make informed choices when you make life and death decisions. The report contains ratings (available to subscribers) on more than 400 hospitals for heart surgery based on data from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), which represents physicians who operate on the heart and other organs in the chest. In addition, the report contains a helpful guide on six questions to help you find a heart hospital. No one should have to go under the knife uninformed. If you’re having a heart attack, emergency bypass is sometimes necessary but in most cases, heart disease can be stabilized with drugs or simpler procedures, giving you or your loved ones more time to consider your options.

Consumer Reports found that certain famous hospitals are missing because they don’t share their data. Ahem. Those hospitals should share their data, otherwise it seems like they have something to hide. And you might be surprised by the location of the top hospitals (CR lists the top 15 for free) — ever heard of Tyler, Texas? As CR’s John Santa said, “It’s not name or location or ad budget that matters; it’s a commitment to quality, and that can happen anywhere.” Also, hospital performance varies widely, even at neighboring hospitals. So the hospital you choose can really make a difference. Overall, many hospitals do a good job. That’s good to know.

It’s always important to know the benefits as well as the risks of any surgery. With heart surgery, potential complications include stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, infection and death. Sometimes a patient needs a repeat operation. Ask your surgeon about the hospital’s survival and complication rates. If they won’t share it, consider looking elsewhere. If you know someone who may need heart surgery, please share Consumer Reports’  information with them because it could really help them out!