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19 October 2017

Should you choose a male or female surgeon?

Researchers investigated whether gender plays a role in surgical skills and outcomes.

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The gender of a surgeon appears to have little to do with the outcome of an operation.

A Canadian study found that patients operated on by women had no more complications or problems after surgery than did patients whose surgeons were men.

Surgical skills and outcomes

"Our findings have important implications for supporting sex equality and diversity in a traditionally male-dominated profession," the study authors wrote.

Among the conclusions in a recent South African pilot study were that more women in surgery does not necessarily translate into better integration, and that women are perceived to face more challenges in carving out a successful career in surgery.

The current study researchers, led by Dr Raj Satkunasivam, a Houston Methodist Hospital surgeon previously at the University of Toronto, investigated whether gender plays a role in surgical skills and outcomes.

The team analysed the link between surgeons' gender and the results of 25 common surgical procedures over an eight-year span.

No significant differences

The investigators compared the outcomes of over 104 000 procedures performed by 774 female surgeons with the outcomes of the same surgeries performed at the same hospital in Ontario by     2 540 male surgeons who were the same age and had the same level of experience. The patients who had the procedures also were matched by age, gender, income and other health issues.

In the first few weeks after surgery, patients operated on by women had slightly lower death rates than those treated by male surgeons, the study found. The difference may be related to closer adherence to guidelines or greater communication and patient-centred care, the study authors suggested.

However, there were no significant differences in complications or readmission rates among the patients treated by women and those operated on by men, according to the report published in BMJ.

The researchers also found no differences in outcomes among patients who had emergency surgery and did not select their surgeons.

The study authors noted in a journal news release that their findings do not prove cause and effect, and do not suggest that patients should choose a surgeon based on gender.

Image credit: iStock

 
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