Do older surgeons have safer hands? A retrospective cohort study

Victoria Rizzo, Edward J. Caruana, Kathrin Freystaetter, Gareth Parry, Stephen C. Clark

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BACKGROUND: For complex surgical procedures a volume-outcome relationship can often be demonstrated implicating multiple factors at a unit and surgeon specific level. This study aims to investigate this phenomenon in lung transplantation over a 30-year period with particular reference to surgeon age and experience, cumulative unit activity and time/day of transplant. METHODS: Prospective databases identified adult patients undergoing isolated lung transplantation at a single UK centre between June 1987 and October 2017. Mortality data was acquired from NHS Spine. Individual surgeon demographics were obtained from the General Medical Council. Student t-test, Pearson's Chi-squared, Logistic Regression, and Kaplan-Meier Survival analyses were performed using Analyse-it package for MicrosoftExcel and STATA/IC. RESULTS: 954 transplants (55.9% male, age 44.4 ± 13.8 years, 67.9% bilateral lung) were performed, with a median survival to follow-up of 4.37 years. There was no difference in survival by recipient gender (p = 0.661), between individual surgeons (p = 0.224), or between weekday/weekend procedures (p = 0.327). Increasing centre experience with lung transplantation (OR1.001, 95%CI: 1.000-1.001, p = 0.03) and successive calendar years (OR1.028, 95%CI: 1.005-1.052, p = 0.017) was associated with improved 5-year survival. Advancing surgeon age at the time of transplant (mean, 48.8 ± 6.6 years) was associated with improved 30-day survival (OR1.062, 95%CI: 1.019 to1.106, p = 0.003), which persisted 5 years post-transplant (OR1.043, 95%CI: 1.014-1.073, p = 0.003). Individual surgeon experience, measured by the number of previous lung transplants performed, showed a trend towards improved outcomes at 30 days (p = 0.0413) with no difference in 5-year survival (p = 0.192). CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrates a relationship between unit volume, increasing surgeon age and survival after lung transplantation. A transplant volume: outcome relationship was not seen for individual surgeons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number223
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


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