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Operations carried out by male surgeons increase the risk of dying for women by almost a THIRD, study suggests
- Female patients at higher risk of death and complications when operated on by male surgeons
- Study found women almost a third more likely to die when they had male surgeon
- But when female surgeons operated on men the outcomes were unchanged if not improved
- Reasons are unclear but scientists warn findings sound alarm for ‘urgent action’
Women are nearly a third more likely to die when operated on by a male surgeon, a study has found.
Female patients are also at higher risk of complications and readmission and are more likely to stay in hospital longer when a man carries out their surgery, researchers said.
However, when female surgeons operated on men the outcomes were unchanged, if not improved – suggesting the link is one sided.
And while the reasons are unclear, scientists warn the findings ‘sound the alarm for urgent action’.
A team from the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, looked at more than 1.3million patient records involving nearly 3,000 surgeons. Out of all the female patients, 93,000 had a female surgeon while 667,000 had a male surgeon.
And out of all male patients, 510,000 had a male surgeon and 50,000 had a female surgeon.
Female patients are also at higher risk of complications and readmission and are more likely to stay in hospital longer when a man carries out their surgery, researchers said (stock image)
The analysis of the data, which was published in the journal Jama Surgery, found that women were 32 per cent more likely to die when a man rather than a woman carried out their operation.
They were also 15 per cent more likely to suffer a bad outcome, had a 16 per cent greater risk of complications, had an 11 per cent greater risk of readmission and were 20 per cent more likely to have to stay in hospital longer.
This was true for many of the 21 types of common surgery analysed, the researchers said. For example, when women had heart or lung surgery their chance of dying after an operation by a female surgeon was 1 per cent. When a male surgeon carried out the operation this rose to 1.4 per cent.
For neurosurgery, the chance of death increased from 0.9 per cent with a female surgeon to 1.2 per cent with a male surgeon.
Dr Angela Jerath, co-author of the study, said male and female surgeons undergo the same training, but implicit ‘sex biases’, in which surgeons ‘act on subconscious, deeply ingrained biases, stereotypes and attitudes’, could be one explanation for the results.
The analysis of the data, which was published in the journal Jama Surgery, found that women were 32 per cent more likely to die when a man rather than a woman carried out their operation (stock image)
Previous studies have suggested that doctors, particularly men, underrate the severity of symptoms in female patients.
Other analysis indicates patients may be less likely to report post-operative pain to male surgeons.
Commenting on the latest study, Andrea Riner, from the University of Florida College of Medicine, said the findings ‘sound the alarm for urgent action’.
She said: ‘Although the underlying reasons for this disparity are not fully understood, action should be taken immediately.
‘Sex disparity in surgery is not unique to Ontario. Efforts to recruit women into surgery need to be ramped up.’
In Britain, women account for 41 per cent of surgeons in the earlier stages of the career but only 14 per cent of senior surgeons.
Experts have warned that this could be due to a lack of flexibility in training schedules and rotas.
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