Two studies published in the journal JAMA reveal that patients operated on by women have a lower risk of complications than those operated on by men. This would be explained by the fact that women surgeons operate more slowly than men and therefore with more precaution.
Canadian researchers looked at the medical data of 1.1 million patients who underwent surgery in Ontario, Canada. The surgeries, some urgent, some not, had taken place between 2007 and 2019. Of the patients, 152,054 had been operated on by a woman and 1,014,657 had been operated on by a man.
Complications at 90 days and one year after the operation
The study reports that 13.9% of people operated on by men experienced complications at 90 days, compared to 12.5% of people operated on by women. This difference observed between male and female surgeons increases one year after the operation, with 25% of patients with complications for patients operated on by a surgeon and 20.7% complications for patients operated on by a surgeon. Complications include mild disorders such as minor infections, but also heart attacks or strokes.
Female surgeons would take 8 minutes longer than male surgeons to perform an operation
Another study looked at the causes that could explain this difference between male and female surgeons. To do this, Swedish researchers analyzed the results of operations carried out on 150,509 patients operated on in Sweden between 2006 and 2019. These patients had all undergone a cholecystectomy, an operation which consists of removing the gallbladder. The study indicates that patients having been operated on by a man were more likely to have suffered complications during the surgery (abscess, perforations, bleeding) than those having been operated on by women: 4.3% of complications for the operations carried out by surgeons against 3.3% of complications for operations performed by female surgeons.
In addition to highlighting this difference, the study explains that it would be linked to the fact that women operate more slowly than men and that, as a result, they perform their actions with more precaution. Women surgeons would take 8 minutes more during an operation, all surgeries (emergency or not) combined.
For Christopher Wallis, surgeon and co-author of the first study, these results should encourage male surgeons to “reflect on the causes of this situation”.
According to a report by the National Order of French Physicians published in 2020, female surgeons remain a minority compared to male surgeons. In 2020, they represented 31.3% of all surgeons.