Analyzing a national database of hospital inpatient records, a team of researchers reports an expected spike in mortality six days after cardiac surgery, but also a more surprising and potentially troubling jump in deaths at the 30-day mark.

They suggest that while there could be “organic” medical reasons for the extra deaths, the more likely explanation may be an unintended consequence of putting so much emphasis on marking one-month “survival” as a key measurement of surgical success.

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