Research suggests that women who go through surgery with a male surgeon are more likely to die, experience complications, or be readmitted to the hospital than if the surgery is performed by a woman. A study of 1.3 million patients found that when a man performs surgery instead of a woman, there is a 15 percent higher chance of a bad outcome. In addition, there is a 32 percent greater chance of dying.
A first-of-its-kind study has examined the impact of a patient’s sex on the outcome of surgery and that of the surgeon. Study participants were examined for three types of postoperative complications: death, readmission to the hospital, and complications within 30 days of surgery. The analysis of 21 types of surgery revealed that women had a greater risk of dying, being readmitted, or experiencing complications when the surgery was performed by a man.
A debate has erupted over the fact that surgery is that the UK remains largely male-dominated, and that ‘implicit sex bias’ among male surgeons may explain why women face greater risks when undergoing surgery. According to clinical epidemiologist Angela Jerath, co-author of the findings, the findings of this study have real-world medical implications for women. According to her, this outcome manifests itself in the form of more complications, hospital readmissions, and mortality in women as compared to men. The study appeared in the medical journal JAMA Surgery.
Jerald observed that these results were concerning, as there should be no difference in patient outcomes based on the gender of the surgeon. At a macro level, the results are troubling. Generally, patients’ outcomes are better when they undergo the same surgery under the care of a female surgeon, particularly for women. These results hold even after adjusting for chronic health conditions, age, and other factors.
Between 2007 and 2019, her team reviewed the records of 1,320,108 patients in Ontario who underwent 21 common surgical procedures performed by 2,937 surgeons. The procedures ranged from hip and knee replacements to weight loss surgery to appendices and gallbladder removals. In addition, they included more complex operations like heart bypasses, aneurysm repairs, and cerebral palsy.
For each of the 1.3 million operations analyzed, researchers examined the gender of each patient and the procedure they underwent as well as the gender of the surgeon. No matter who the surgeon was, men who underwent surgery had similar outcomes. When a female surgeon performs the procedure, women have a better chance of achieving good outcomes. The results were the same for men and women who underwent surgery with a female surgeon. Jerath argued that gender differences in the technical training of surgeons are unlikely to explain the results since both sexes undergo the same level of training.
In her opinion, implicit sex biases may explain how this occurs, as surgeons may act based on subconscious, deeply ingrained prejudices and preconceived ideas. The difference may also be related to men and women having different communication and interpersonal skills, she said. Another factor may be significant differences in the work styles, decision-making, and judgment of male and female physicians. In a statement, the Royal College of Surgeons of England said the findings are ‘interesting’ and that more research is needed on communication, trust, and doctor-patient relationships.