Surgery Doesn't Get Safer When Patient, Surgeon Are Same Gender

By   |  November 27, 2023

By Ernie Mundell HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2023 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

MONDAY, Nov. 27, 2023 (HeathDay News) -- More female surgeons are entering the field, which brings up a new question: Are your surgical outcomes likely to be better if your gender matches that of your surgeon?

The answer seems to be "probably not."

A study from University of California Los Angeles researchers found little evidence that patient-surgeon "gender concordance" matters to outcomes.

“Given that the difference in patient mortality [death] between female and male surgeons was small, when choosing a surgeon, patients should take into account factors beyond the gender of the surgeon," advised study senior author Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa.  

He's associate professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.

The new research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published Nov. 22 in The BMJ. 

In their study, Tsugawa's group examined data on more than 2.9 million Medicare patients who underwent one of 14 surgeries between 2016 and 2019.  

Among other procedures, these surgeries included abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, appendectomy, coronary artery bypass surgery, knee or hip replacement, hysterectomy, spinal fusion, removal of the prostate and removal of the thyroid.

Overall, about 1.2 million of these surgeries occurred when the patients and the surgeon were both male, while about 86,000 occurred when both patients and surgeon were female. 

The remaining cases involved 1.5 million cases where the patient was female and the surgeon male, and 52,000 cases where the patient was male and the surgeon female.

No major differences were observed in terms of post-surgical deaths occurring 30 days after the procedure, the UCLA team said, with deaths held to 2% or under, regardless of how patients and surgeons were paired. This was true after adjusting for multiple patient and surgeon characteristics. 

Besides suggesting that any gender pairing of surgeon and patient is largely irrelevant to outcomes, "It is important for patients to know that the quality of surgical care provided by female surgeons in the United States is equivalent to, or in some cases, slightly better than that provided by male surgeons,” Tsugawa noted in a UCLA news release.

More information

Find out more about post-op surgical risks at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

SOURCE:  University of California Los Angeles, news release, Nov. 23, 2023

What This Means For You

When it comes to safety after a surgery, it probably doesn't matter if your gender matches that of your surgeon.