- Patients are less likely to die if their surgeon has a high degree of specialization in the procedure, a new study published in BMJ suggests.
- The researchers analyzed Medicare data on 25,152 U.S. surgeons who performed one of eight procedures on nearly 700,000 patients.
- In four cardiac procedures and two cancer resections, a surgeon’s degree of specialization was a key indicator of mortality risk for the patient, regardless of how many times they had performed the procedure.
The relative risk reduction from surgeon specialization ranged from 9% for coronary artery bypass grafts to 100% for a cystectomy.
It’s well known that patients fare better when surgeons have performed a procedure a number of times.
The study could aid policymakers looking at ways to improve quality at smaller and rural hospitals by using surgeon specialization to assign patients for surgeries when minimal volume thresholds can’t be met, the researchers say.
Future administrators at large hospitals might consider surgeon specialization with volume in deciding case distributions. And physicians and patients might also look at specialization to pick a surgeon who could deliver the best outcome.