A study entitled, “The Influence of Volume and Experience on Individual Surgical Performance: A Systematic Review” that was published in the April 2015 edition of the Annals of Surgery concluded, “Increasing surgical case volume and years of practice are associated with improved performance, in a procedure-specific manner. Performance may deteriorate toward the end of a surgeon’s career.”
The authors’ conclusion would seem to confirm what most people would have expected with regard to surgeons (as well as many other professionals and non-professionals alike): the more you perform a task, the better you are at performing that task; and, when you approach the end of your career or job, your ability to perform your job tasks with the same level of expertise and efficiency as you exhibited during your mid-career years may gradually deteriorate.
In short, the study’s findings and conclusions with regard to the performance of surgeons over time and over their careers would probably not surprise anyone; what we may have assumed with regard to many surgeons has now been confirmed.
The study’s authors systematically reviewed past studies that looked at the level of surgical experience as it related to surgical performance. Of the 6,950 citations the authors found in examining the medical literature, there were 57 studies that met the criteria set by the authors, which involved 17,912 surgeons who performed 35 different types of surgical procedures in 1,061,913 surgical cases. Of the 57 studies that the authors reviewed, 45 of the studies looked at case volume alone in analyzing the level of surgical experience while 6 of the studies measured the level of surgical experience by looking at both case volume and the number of years of surgical practice.
The authors determined that 44 of the studies they reviewed had found that the surgeons’ increased volume of cases was associated with significantly improved health outcomes for their surgical patients. The authors also found that several of the studies they reviewed found that there was a plateau of the surgical learning curve that was specific to both procedure and outcome, ranging from 25 to 750 procedures.
The authors reviewed 12 studies that analyzed the impact of the number of years of surgical practice: 11 of these studies found that increased years of experience was associated with significantly improved health outcomes for surgical patients. Two of the studies found a plateau, where increases in the number of years of surgical experience were no longer associated with improvements in surgical outcomes for patients; three of the studies found a deterioration in performance after the plateau phase.
If you or a loved one may have suffered serious injuries or other significant harm as a result of a surgical error, surgical mistake, or a surgeon’s negligence, you should promptly find a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your surgical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case against a surgeon, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.