Our healthcare system depends on the ability of surgeons later in their career. So it’s important to question whether the surgeon’s age might have an adverse effect on outcomes.

If you’re just skimming, the answer is no!

A study from Ontario evaluated a population-base of 499,650 operations and found that a late career stage surgeon (more than 25 years of experience) was not associated with increased overall risk of adverse events in cataract surgery. The researchers probed health care databases to study cataract surgical complications while controlling for patient, surgeon, and institution-level covariates.

Study included four surgical complications

The study, which included all ophthalmologists in Ontario, focused on four surgical complications that may require additional treatment to correct.

Complications were found in 2,800 cataract operations. But only 2,000 had one of four adverse effects.

Late-career surgeons performed about 143,000 (29%) without any increased risk of complications. This finding held true even when patient volume was removed as a variable.

Examining the complications that did occur, the researchers found two adverse events where the risk did increase for the older surgeons: 1) dropped lens fragments, and 2) suspected endophthalmitis. These two events only resulted in a one-tenth of one percent increase in overall complications.

Previous studies of surgeon age and association with complications have found that the complexity of the procedure and the frequency with which the surgeons performed it are important but were not explored in this study.

Experience is important, too. A study of coronary bypass patients at Taipei University in Taiwan revealed that the in-house mortality rates of surgeons under 40 years was significantly higher than in-hospital mortality rates, said that study’s senior author Herng-Ching Lin of Taipei Medical University in Taiwan. “We concluded that older surgeons are more likely to achieve better clinical performance because of their greater clinical experience,” he said.