Surgery is known to have many risks. What if on top of the risks that surgery already poses, your surgeon did not have enough training? A new report shows that novice surgeons might not have the proper skills needed to perform your surgery.

CBS news reports on the new information.

In many cases patients have no idea how many surgeries their surgeon has performed. The new data shows the importance of researching a surgeon’s track record before picking him or her.

Many experts are saying that whether a surgeon is new to the field makes a big difference in patient mortality rates. Others beg to differ and say it does not make any difference at all. A new study delves into this debate.

How was the study conducted?

The study lasted two years, and was recently published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. It used information on 130,106 Medicare patients at 489 hospitals in the United States. The research team leading the study was made up of statisticians and medical doctors.

What were the results?

“The researchers found that differences in mortality rates between more experienced and less experienced surgeons were not statistically significant. The overall rate of death in patients who underwent a procedure with a more experienced surgeon was 3.59 percent versus 3.71 percent for surgeons with less experience,” according to CBS.

It was surprising to many that the disparity found was not higher, but still there was a disparity. Also, there are many factors involved such as what kind of surgeries dominated the study and whether they were more complex surgeries or more standard surgeries.

The researchers also admit that there are some limitations to their results. The first limitation is that the study only scrutinizes patient deaths, not surgical complications and other risks that also occur often where the disparity between new and experienced surgeons may be larger.

Another point of concern is the fact that surgical training has changed a great deal in the last few years. In this day and age medical school students now receive 6 to 12 months less training time in operating rooms than they did around ten years ago, so more research will be needed in the next few years to get a better idea of what the disparity between new surgeons and experienced surgeons truly is.

Dr. Kelz the study’s author told CBS,

“It is reassuring that new surgeons were able to achieve similar mortality rates to experienced surgeons when caring for similar patients. However, mortality is a relatively rare event that may not expose the benefits of experience.”

Another issue is the fact that this study was published in a statistics journal rather than a medical one, this is important because it means the paper did not go through the same type of peer review process.

Many experts are saying that whether or not medical schools sufficiently equip future surgeons is a serious question. One study published recently showed that many surgery fellows (a post-residency graduate physician) might not be prepared to handle the demands of the operating room. The authors of the study sent surveys to top subspecialty program directors who oversaw training in such areas as invasive surgery, bariatric, colorectal, hepatobiliary [liver and gall bladder] and thoracic surgeries.

CBS reports, “The surveys found that 21 percent of directors felt new fellows were unprepared, 30 percent were unable to operate for 30 minutes unsupervised during a major surgical procedure and 24 percent were not able to recognize early signs of complications. When conducting laparoscopic procedures, 30 percent were viewed as unable to safely manipulate tissue, 26 percent were deemed unable to recognize anatomical planes and 56 percent could not suture a cut.”

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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