Female surgeons have been associated with better postoperative outcomes.

A recent study encompassing over a million Canadian patients who underwent surgery shed light on a notable trend: patients treated by female surgeons experience fewer postoperative issues compared to those treated by their male counterparts. 

The research, conducted jointly in Canada and the United States, prompts further investigation into why this gender disparity exists and how male surgeons can bridge the performance gap.

Patients treated by female surgeons exhibited a significantly lower likelihood of experiencing adverse outcomes at both the 90-day and one-year marks following surgery. 

This association remained consistent across various patient, surgeon, hospital, and procedure characteristics.

While previous research had already pointed to improved 30-day outcomes with female surgeons, this study delved into longer-term results, revealing a consistent pattern of better patient outcomes when women were at the surgical helm.

The study, a population-based retrospective cohort analysis, focused on adults in Ontario, Canada, who underwent 25 common elective or emergent surgeries between 2007 and 2019. It involved meticulous analysis conducted between July 15 and October 20, 2022.

The primary outcome measure was the occurrence of adverse postoperative events, defined as a combination of death, readmission, or complications, at 90 days and one year after surgery. Secondary assessments examined each of these outcomes individually. 

The study employed rigorous statistical methods, adjusting for patient, procedure, surgeon, anesthesiologist, and facility-related factors, to provide a comprehensive analysis.

Among the vast cohort of 1,165,711 patients, 151,054 received treatment from female surgeons, while 1,014,657 were treated by male surgeons. 

Overall, 14.3 per cent of patients experienced one or more adverse postoperative outcomes at 90 days, with this figure rising to 25.0 per cent at the one-year mark. 

Mortality rates were 2.0 per cent and 4.3 per cent within 90 days and one year, respectively.

Upon analysis, the study demonstrated that patients treated by male surgeons had higher rates of adverse postoperative outcomes at both the 90-day (13.9 per cent vs. 12.5 per cent) and one-year (25.0 per cent vs. 20.7 per cent) intervals. 

These disparities persisted when examining mortality rates, with 0.8 per cent and 2.4 per cent mortality at 90 days and one year for patients treated by male surgeons, compared to 0.5 per cent and 1.6 per cent for those treated by female surgeons.

Even after accounting for various factors, the study underscores that patients treated by female surgeons consistently experience fewer adverse postoperative outcomes, including death, at both 90 days and one year following surgery. 

The experts say further research is needed to find the underlying causes of these differences and the potential strategies to address them.

The full study is accessible here.