Women who had surgery performed by a male surgeon were more likely to have adverse outcomes than women operated on by female doctors, according to a study published Dec. 8 in peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA Surgery.
U.S. and Canadian researchers analyzed more than 1.3 million patients in Ontario, Canada, treated by 2,397 surgeons between 2007 and 2019. They found that female patients treated by male surgeons had 15% greater odds of worse outcomes than female patients treated by female surgeons.
Women patients operated on by male surgeons had a 32% increase risk of death, 16% increase in major complications and 11% increase in readmission to the hospital within a 30-day window post-surgery, compared to women operated on by female surgeons, researchers found.
In most cases, men had similar outcomes when operated on by either a male or female surgeon. However, men operated on by a male surgeon had a 13% increase in death, compared to men treated by a female surgeon.
“Women surgeons are doing something right – we have to find out what it is and address it,” study co-author Dr. Angela Jerath told USA TODAY.
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Jerath and study co-author Dr. Christopher Wallis, both of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, were motivated to explore this area due to a growing trend in medical research to challenge traditional assumptions about how care is provided. Previous research in 2017, co-authored by Wallis, found better outcomes for patients treated by female surgeons and the researchers sought to build upon that work.
“Some male surgeons may feel threatened by our research. However, we take the alternate view that this presents an opportunity to learn, evolve and improve care for all patients,” Wallis, an assistant professor of urology, told USA TODAY.
A 2020 study published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Surgery found that discriminatory perceptions of incompetence and distrust of the female surgeon’s skills persist, despite evidence from Wallis’ 2017 study that female surgeons have slightly better patient outcomes than male surgeons. That 2020 study, published in the American Journal of Surgery, also found female surgeons experienced less professional promotion opportunities, underrepresentation in leadership positions, decreased scholarly productivity and more domestic and childrearing responsibilities.
Fixing these discrepancies in health care won’t be easy, Jerath and Wallis said. They hope their research can teach surgeons the non-technical skills necessary to maximize outcomes for all patients, regardless of sex.
You can reach the author Michelle Shen @michelle_shen10 on Twitter.
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