Surgeons get better – then worse – with age, says French study

Research suggests that patients are better off if the doctor operating on them is between the ages of 35 and 50.

Surgeons in mid-career, between the ages of 35 and 50, are the safest for patients, according to a new study.

Newly qualified surgeons might be expected to make a few mistakes. It is generally known that surgeons reach their peak performance after some 10 years of experience in their chosen field. But although some surgeons stop operating as they get older, aware that they are not physically as agile or alert as they once were, nobody knew how long their period of excellence lasted. The findings of research published online by the British Medical Journal suggest that the performance of those who have been carrying out the same operations for more than 20 years can start to deteriorate.

Surgical prowess is a hard thing to measure, because much depends on the state of fitness of the patient and complicating factors such as obesity or other illnesses, which may put them at higher risk of problems. So researchers focused on one particular procedure – removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) – where the operation has remained much the same for decades and the complications are well known. They made adjustments for the age and general health of patients.

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Categories: Europe, UK

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