Revisiting the Aging Surgeon—For Better or Worse?
New research supports earlier findings that older surgeons do not have higher rates of operative mistake and mortality.
Our firm delivers aggressive representation to individuals and families who are injured by medical mistakes and bad outcomes that occur when physicians provide care below accepted standards. Because of the high rate of medical error in the US practice of medicine, some of the focus falls on later career surgeons and physicians.
Cognitive and physical dexterity declines as we age. Pattern recognition and ability to make quick decisions may diminish and important facts cannot be recalled as fast. While much of the population can accommodate these changes, surgeons and healthcare providers offer specialized services that rely on agility—in thought and mobility.
A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) took a look at outcomes for surgery patients relative to the age of their surgeon. The retrospective study looked at data from 2007 through 2016 from 1,159,676 patients. These patients underwent common surgical procedures performed by surgeons between the ages of 27 and 81 years of age.
Prior to data review, researchers identified negative outcomes from health data to evaluate the operative results. Researchers wanted to identify certain factors and how often they occurred in patients of surgeons at various ages. Just some of the outcomes included:
- Cardiac arrests requiring resuscitation
- Bleeding requiring significant transfusion within 72 hours of surgery
- Deep venous thrombosis
- Ventilator use for 48 hours or more
Surgeons were grouped within ten-year increments and note made of those above and below age 65, the standard age of retirement. Overall findings of the study include:
- Approximately 11.9 percent of patients experienced a complicating factor
- Each ten-year increase in the age of a surgeon resulted in a five percent decrease in the odds of an identified complication
- Patients treated by surgeons who were older had lower rates of readmission, 30-day mortality rates, and complications
Because the study was based on Canada’s single payer health system, consistent data was obtained regardless of whether the procedure was elective or emergent. The authors note the study supports earlier findings that older surgeons may not show a decrease in ability, but also outperform younger peers. Researchers also note that surgeons still in practice at advanced ages are there intentionally, while other surgeons of similar age and experience may have retired upon experiencing diminishment of their skills.
A surgical mistake can occur in any setting, but this study suggests a well-experienced, reputable surgeon may prove a reliable bet for cautious medical consumers. Regardless, if a mistake is made by surgeon or staff and you are seriously injured, speak with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney with our firm.
If you suffer a surgical injury, our law firm can help
With offices in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC, the law firm of Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. is well- known for its compassionate, successful legal representation on behalf of those who suffer medical injury or wrongful death. If you or a loved one has suffered significant medical harm, contact us today or call 410-234-1000 to schedule a free consultation.