Female Surgeons Take Longer, With Better Results

2 large studies find that patients of male surgeons have more complications
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2023 7:15 PM CDT
Patients of Female Surgeons Tend to Have Better Outcomes
Surgical professions are still dominated by men but things are slowly changing.   (Getty Images/gorodenkoff)

Two studies involving more than a million patients in Canada and Sweden arrived at the same conclusion: Patients operated on by female surgeons have better outcomes than those operated on by men. The studies found that the difference was small but consistent, even when factors like case complexity were taken into account, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Canadian study, published in JAMA Surgery, looked at almost 1.2 million patients who underwent surgery between 2007 and 2020. It found that within 90 days of surgery, 13.9% of those operated on by men experienced "adverse post-operative events," a term that includes death as well as a wide range of complications. For female surgeons, the figure was 12.5%.

A year after surgery, 20.7% of patients seen by female surgeons had experienced an adverse postoperative event, compared to 25% of patients of male surgeons, according to the Canadian study, which looked at 25 different procedures, including brain and heart surgery. The Swedish study, also published in JAMA Surgery, looked at around 150,000 patients who underwent gallbladder surgery and found that patients of female surgeons had "significantly fewer" complications, the Guardian reports. "Female surgeons operated more slowly; they converted to open surgery less frequently in the acute care setting; and their patients had shorter hospital stays," researchers wrote.

The Swedish study found that male surgeons spent an average of eight minutes less than female surgeons on operations—and patients had complications almost 30% more often, per the Journal. My Blohm, lead author of the Swedish study, says the findings suggest technique and risk-taking could explain the differences, the Guardian reports. Angela Jerath, a co-author of the Canadian study, says a big factor is differences in communicating with patients. "Picking up problems early is where you start to save patients," she says. (More surgeons stories.)

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