Operations done by middle-aged surgeons are 'safest'

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Middle-aged surgeons conduct the safest medical procedures and operations, according to a group of French researchers. Apparently, surgeons reach their...

Middle-aged surgeons conduct the safest medical procedures and operations, according to a group of French researchers.

Apparently, surgeons reach their performance peak when they are between the ages of 35 and 50-years-old.

It has also been revealed in previous research that when surgeons have gained about 10 years of experience in their area of expertise the surgery they carry out is of the highest possible quality.

This evidence suggests that patients are more at risk of complications during an operation if their surgeon is young and inexperienced or has been in practice for more than 20 years.  

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The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Lyon, France, and they investigated the outcomes of just over 3,500 thyroid gland removal operations that were conducted by 28 surgeons.

Specifically, the team were looking to identify any links between the age and experience of the surgeon and how patients fared after the surgery.

The researchers strategically chose to investigate thyroidectomy operations because there have been no significant changes to the procedure in the past two decades.

The results of the study revealed that patients were three times more at risk of suffering from damage to the glands and severe hoarseness after the surgery if their surgeon had been practising for over 20 years.

Similarly, patients who had a younger surgeon carrying out their operation were also at risk of complications.

However, the researchers have stressed they only carried out a very small-scale investigation and more research needs to be done to find conclusive evidence.

“Optimum individual performance in thyroid surgery cannot be passively achieved or maintained by accumulating experience,” the researchers said.  

They added: “Factors contributing to poor performance in very experienced surgeons should be explored further.”

Meanwhile, while commenting on the findings, Professor Mike Larvin from the UK’s Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), said: “Given the pace of change in medical innovation it is certain that a surgeon at the end of his career will be undertaking a nearly completely different range of operations than at the outset.

“This interesting study shows the importance of lifelong learning for surgeons - something the RCS supports by directly running courses for trainees and consultants and quality assuring courses run by others.

Larvin continued: “We have also set out requirements for continuing professional development for medical revalidation, a system of regular five-year check-ups on doctor competence, which starts at the end of this year.”

The results of the research have been published on bmj.com.

The Healthcare Global magazine is now available on the iPad. Click here to download it.


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