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Surgeon Sex and Long-Term Outcomes

According to their August 2023 study, “Surgeon Sex and Long-Term Postoperative Outcomes Among Patients Undergoing Common Surgeries,” Wallis et al. looked at a cohort of one million patients and adverse postoperative events, defined as the composite of death, readmission, or complication. After accounting for patient, procedure, surgeon, anesthesiologist, and hospital characteristics, their findings suggest that patients treated by female surgeons have lower rates of adverse postoperative outcomes, including death at 90 days and one year after surgery, compared with those who were treated by male surgeons.

What are our patients reading?

The authors believe that female doctors are skilled at communicating and connecting with their patients, making sure they follow their prescribed medications and therapy. Additionally, female doctors are good at working together with their colleague and following guidelines when treating patients.

In other words, the X factor may be empathy.

Empathy and orthopedics

Demonstrating empathy involves understanding and showing concern for the thoughts and feelings of the patient. This patient-rated surgeon empathy is the main factor driving patient satisfaction. There may be a disconnect, however, between perception and reality.

In their 2005 study, Tongue et al. found that 75% of the orthopaedic surgeons believed they communicated satisfactorily with their patients, but only 21% of the orthopedic patients reported having adequate communication with their caretakers. A more recent study by Dobransky et al. in 2020 shows that orthopedic surgeons have higher empathy scores compared to a previous meta-analysis of 64 studies evaluating healthcare professionals’ empathy, suggesting that our communication strategies are getting better.

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