Patients treated by female surgeons have a lower risk of death, study finds

Researchers says further investigation needed to find the underlying causes of apparent trend

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES,  JUNE 17, 2013. Working moms. Dr. Houriya Kazim BSc, MPH, MB BCh, FRCS, Medical Director and Specialist Breast Surgeon, an Emirati and the country's first female surgeon at work on a surgery at the Dubai London Speciailty Hosptial on Beach rd.  Freelancer is Rachel Lewis. (ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National)
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Patients operated on by a female surgeon are less likely to die or experience complications than those whose surgery is performed by a male doctor, according to a new study.

The research, a collaboration between surgeons from Canada and the US which has been published by the Jama Surgery journal, says female surgeons have lower rates of adverse post-operative outcomes – including death at 90 days and one year after surgery – compared with those treated by male surgeons.

Its authors concluded that the findings further support differences in patient outcomes based on the sex of the physician that warrant deeper study regarding underlying causes and potential solutions.

The paper, entitled Surgeon Sex and Long-Term Post-Operative Outcomes Among Patients Undergoing Common Surgeries, examined whether there was an association between the gender of surgeons and patients’ long-term outcomes.

“In this cohort study of one million patients, those treated by a female surgeon were less likely to experience death, hospital readmission, or major medical complication at 90 days or one year after surgery,” the authors said.

“This association was seen across nearly all subgroups defined by patient, surgeon, hospital, and procedure characteristics.

It conducted a population-based retrospective cohort study in adults in Ontario, Canada, undergoing one of 25 common elective or emergent surgeries between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2019.

Analysis was performed between July 15 and October 20, 2022.

The study examined the cases of 1,165 711 patients, 151,054 of whom were treated by a female surgeon.

Overall, 14.3 per cent of the patients had one or more adverse post-operative outcome at 90 days and 25 per cent had one or more adverse post-operative outcomes one year following surgery.

Among these, 2 per cent of patients died within 90 days and 4.3 per cent died within a year.

Updated: September 01, 2023, 2:51 PM