Surgeons aged between 35 and 50 provide the safest care

January 10, 2012

Surgeons aged between 35 and 50 years provide the safest care compared with their younger or older colleagues, finds a study published in the British Medical Journal today.

The findings raise concerns about ongoing training and motivation of surgeons during their careers.

Typically, experts reach their peak performance between the ages of 30 and 50 years or after about 10 years' experience in their specialty, but few studies have measured the association between clinicians' experience and performance.

So a team, led by Drs Antoine Duclos and Jean-Christophe Lifante from the University of Lyon in France, set out to determine the association between surgeons' experience and after thyroid surgery.

The study involved 3,574 thyroidectomies (removal of the ) by 28 surgeons (with an average age of 41 years with an average length of experience of 10 years) at five French hospitals during a one-year period.

Two major complications of thyroid surgery were measured 48 hours after surgery and again at least six months after surgery: permanent recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy (severe hoarseness) and hypoparathyroidism (damage to the leading to low calcium levels, cramping and twitching).

Background information was recorded for all patients and surgeons were surveyed about their background and professional experience. was also adjusted by case mix (the type and complexity of cases being treated).

Patients were at higher risk of permanent complications following thyroid surgery when operated on by inexperienced surgeons and those in practice for 20 years or more.

When was performed by surgeons in practice for 20 years or more, the probability of permanent complications increased considerably.

Surgeons between 35 and 50 years old (that is, with 5-20 years of practice since graduation) had better outcomes than their younger or older colleagues.

The authors point out that, other unknown or unmeasured factors may have explained part of the variation in complication rates, and these should be further explored.

However, they say their findings suggest that surgeons' performance varies over the course of their career and that a surgeon cannot achieve or maintain top performance passively by accumulating experience, which raises concerns about ongoing training and motivation throughout a career that spans several decades.

Explore further: Nerve identification technique during thyroid removal associated with fewer complications

Related Stories

Nerve identification technique during thyroid removal associated with fewer complications

August 15, 2011
During thyroidectomy (surgery to remove the thyroid gland), the technique surgeons use to identify an important nerve appears to make a difference in terms of complications such as impairment of the parathyroid glands (which ...

Minimally invasive thyroid surgery effective in children

April 13, 2011
Surgical approaches that reduce incision size and recovery time from thyroid surgery work well in children, physician-scientists report.

Recommended for you

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.