When we go into surgery, we all would like to believe that no matter what, we are safe and secure. However, a recent study unearthed a strange and scary truth that may make you believe otherwise.
The study was published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery and analyzed 1.3 million patients in Ontario, Canada that were treated by 2,397 surgeons between 2007 and 2019, according to USA Today. What they found was that female patients who had been treated by male surgeons had a 32% risk of death. Additionally, the odds were stacked against them by a 15% higher risk of death than if they had been treated by a female surgeon.
“In our 1.3 million patient sample involving nearly 3,000 surgeons, we found that female patients treated by male surgeons had 15% greater odds of worse outcomes than female patients treated by female surgeons,” explained Dr. Angela Jerath, a co-author of the studies findings.
“This result has real-world medical consequences for female patients and manifests itself in more complications, readmissions to hospital and death for females compared with males.
“We have demonstrated in our paper that we are failing some female patients and that some are unnecessarily falling through the cracks with adverse, and sometimes fatal, consequences.”
On top of that, the female patients had a 16% higher risk of a major complication and an 11% higher risk of readmission within a 30-day window after surgery.
“These results are concerning because there should be no sex difference in patient outcomes regardless of the surgeon’s sex.
“On a macro level, the results are troubling. When a female surgeon operates, patient outcomes are generally better, particularly for women, even after adjusting for differences in chronic health status, age and other factors, when undergoing the same procedures.” Jerath added.
In contrast, men who had been operated on had the same outcome, regardless of the gender of their surgeon.
Jerath did say that there “are some excellent male surgeons who consistently have good outcomes.”
She also went on to explain that she believed the reason for this major discrepancy could be because the male surgeons were acting on “subconscious, deeply ingrained biases, stereotypes, and attitudes.”
Currently, this study is the first of its kind to examine the links between gender and patient outcomes based on their surgeon. And they looked at adverse, postoperative outcomes and death. The results are astonishing, to say the least. Her remedy to this particular bias was that “Having more female surgeons would improve all patients’ outcomes,” she said.