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Emergency treatment by older surgeons linked to slightly lower death rates

26 Apr 2018

Research published in The BMJ today has found patients undergoing emergency surgery who are treated by older surgeons (aged 60 or over) have slightly lower death rates in the first few weeks after their operation than patients treated by younger surgeons (aged less than 40) within the same hospital. 

A research team analysed the operative mortality rate (defined as death while in hospital or within 30 days of surgery) of Medicare patients aged 65-99 years who underwent one of 20 major emergency surgical procedures at acute care hospitals in the USA between 2011 and 2014.

Responding to the research findings, Professor Neil Mortensen, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“The Royal College of Surgeons is very supportive of research that can lead to improvements in patients’ outcomes. This study has shown emergency treatment by older surgeons is linked to slightly lower death rates. It is however important to understand that this study does not establish cause and effect.

“Surgical outcomes are complex and are likely to depend on more than just the experience of the surgeon. The findings of this study suggest improved surgical skills with extra years in practice. It is also likely that more experience brings added surgical judgement. 

“This study certainly prompts further investigation, in different settings and covering other surgical specialities. It may also advance the cause of two consultant operating, with an older surgeon mentoring a younger one.”


Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

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