Steady Under Pressure: Researchers Find Women Make Better Surgeons Than Men

When you put yourself or a loved one in the hands of the surgeon you want to make sure you are in the safest pair possible, and although you don’t have a choice whether it’s a man or a woman holding that scalpel it turns out that female surgeons may be your best bet.

While surgery has long been a male-dominated occupation, a new study published in the BMJ reports that patients of female surgeons tend to have lower death rates, fewer complications and lower readmissions to the hospital a month after their procedure, compared to the patients of male surgeons, TIME reports.

The extensive study anyalysed all of the people in Ontario, Canada who had operations from 2007 to 2015 (more than 104,000, in total) as well as their surgeons.

As surgery is a field in which experience can lead to better outcomes, researchers ensured the comparisons between the male and female surgeons were matched and accounted for the fact that some surgeons might have had more difficult and complicated cases.

Female Surgeons

In spite of these adjustments, patients of female surgeons were 4% less likely to die, be readmitted or experience complications 30 days after their surgery compared to patients of male surgeons.

While the study didn’t make clear why the patients of female surgeons might do better than those of male surgeons it does back up the results of another study earlier this year.

The study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that a small group of patients with female doctors tended to have lower death rates and were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days than those with male doctors.

Dr. Raj Satkunasivam, assistant professor of urology at Houston Methodist Hospital where the latest study was carried out, does note that one factor is that generally only the very best women at the craft become practicing surgeons.

Though the study leader is against selecting your surgeon based on gender: “You should select a surgeon based on the rapport you have with him or her, what your family physician recommends, and the research you do… You should be equally confident with a male or female surgeon.”