A good rule of thumb for potential surgical patients: Look for someone adept… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
In Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn., we learn from a new study that, when it comes to bariatric surgery, surgeon experience seems to trump the quality designation of the hospital.
Researchers from the University of Michigan write in their conclusion: "The frequency of serious complications among patients after bariatric surgery in Michigan is low. Rates of serious complications are inversely associated with hospital and surgeon procedure volume but not COE [center of excellence] status."
Here's the abstract from that bariatric-surgery study and the Detroit Free Press story about it, "Experience in bariatric surgery lessens problems."
The importance of surgeon experience is famously true in prostate cancer surgery. In one of the more recent studies along these lines, researchers found that men who underwent laparoscopic surgery for prostate cancer had similar outcomes to those who had more traditional surgery. What matters, according to a related editorial, is surgeon experience.
Here's the abstract from the prostate cancer treatment study, published in April in the Journal of Urology, and the author of the commentary with his perspective on experience.
Still somewhat unclear is why so many people apparently remain surprised by such findings. After all, here's a New England Journal of Medicine study from 2003 measuring mortality rates for eight cardiovascular or cancer procedures.
It states: "For most procedures, the mortality rate was higher among patients of low-volume surgeons than among those of high-volume surgeons, regardless of the surgical volume of the hospital in which they practiced."
Here's that surgeon-experience-matters study.
Of course, patient outcome is affected by many things -- the hospitals and the patients themselves among them. But the fact that surgeon experience, not just surgeon confidence, is crucial hardly seems shocking.
A study that finds experience to matter not one whit, that would be notable. In the meantime, look for a surgeon who's seen it all -- or at least a whole lot.
-- Tami Dennis