• delivery of health care;
  • heart valve prosthesis implantation/mortality;
  • rheumatic heart disease/surgery;
  • risk assessment;
  • risk factors


Background:  Rheumatic heart disease constitutes a significant disease burden in under-resourced communities. Recognition of the devastating impact of rheumatic heart disease has resulted in volunteer cardiac teams from Australasia providing surgical services to regions of need. The primary objective of this study was to compare New Zealand hospitals' volunteer cardiac surgical operative results in Samoa and Fiji with the accepted surgical mortality and morbidity rates for Australasia.

Methods:  A retrospective review from seven volunteer cardiac surgical trips to Samoa and Fiji from 2003 to 2009 was conducted. Patient data were retrospectively and prospectively collected. Preoperative morbidity and mortality risk were calculated using the European System for Cardiac Operative Risk Evaluation (euroSCORE). Audit data were collated in line with the Australasian Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons guidelines.

Results:  One hundred and three operations were performed over 6 years. EuroSCORE predicted an operative mortality of 3.32%. In-hospital mortality was 0.97% and post-discharge mortality was 2.91%, resulting in a 30-day mortality of 3.88%.

Conclusion:  This study demonstrated that performing cardiac surgery in Fiji and Samoa is viable and safe. However, the mortality was slightly higher than predicted by euroSCORE. Difficulties exist in predicting mortality rates in patients with rheumatic heart disease from Pacific Island nations as known risk scoring models fail to be disease, ethnically or culturally inclusive. Audit processes and risk model development and assessment are an essential part of this complex surgical charity work and will result in improved patient selection and outcomes.