Before Your Next Surgery, Be Sure to Ask This Question

It’s a question most people would never think to ask, but it could mean the difference between life and death.

When is your surgeon’s birthday?

Researchers at UCLA say older patients who undergo emergency surgery on their surgeon’s birthday are more likely to die within a month than others who have the same or similar procedures on different days.

Among surgery patients over age 65, mortality rates are 23 percent higher among those treated on their surgeon’s birthday.

The researchers have yet to come up with a specific reason why this may be the case, but they speculate these highly skilled doctors may be distracted during surgery due to turning one year older. As of now, however, that’s just a theory.

“Our study is the first to show the association between a surgeon’s birthday and patient mortality, but further research is needed before we make a conclusion that birthdays indeed have a meaningful impact on surgeons’ performance,” says senior study author Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, an assistant professor of medicine, in a university release. “At this point, given that evidence is still limited, I don’t think patients need to avoid a surgical procedure on the surgeon’s birthday.”

It seems like a fairly large sample size was used as part of the study.

Researchers examined postoperative 30-day mortality rates among Medicare beneficiaries between 65 and 99 years old during the study. Each patient underwent one of 17 different surgical procedures between 2011 and 2014. In all, study authors looked at close to 981,000 surgeries performed by 48,000 different surgeons. A grand total of 2,064 (0.2%) of those surgeries took place on the surgeon’s birthday.

Patients who underwent a procedure on their surgeon’s birthday had a 6.9 percent mortality rate. In comparison, everyone else’s mortality rate was 5.6 percent. Researchers say that constitutes a 23-percent greater mortality risk during birthday surgeries.

The researchers say more study on this connection is needed. They add since the review focuses on older adults, the same may not hold true for younger individuals.

In other words, there are a lot of unanswered questions here.

But one question you can get an answer to – what is your surgeon’s birthday. Perhaps doctors should be required to use their birthday as a vacation day…

If you would like to read some more details about this study, here is the link. It was published in the BMJ, which appears to be a prestigious medical journal.

67 thoughts on “Before Your Next Surgery, Be Sure to Ask This Question

  1. I never considered this before. While I like my doctor and dentist, I don’t know many personal details about them. I would think that would be true of most people. Fortunately, I haven’t had many surgeries, which explains my lack of knowledge about him/her. I’ve been going to the same dentist for over twenty-five years, and she always makes a point to ask specific questions (not general ones) about my family. I have to think that’s something a PR person taught, but it does create an extra level of trust.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. it sounds like we’ve got the same dentist. she is always good at remembering things I have told her in previous visits about my family and other personal items. it would be nice to know a little bit more about the health care professionals who take care of us…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. since I usually teach Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, there is about a 50-50 chance I’ll be teaching on my birthday. I think I prefer it when my birthday falls on one of the other days…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Even though it’s a large sample group, what other factors were looked at? And if it’s only Medicare would the same resh lts come from a study from another medical group. Personally I find these studies a waste of resources. Statistics is easy to use as a means to get a result.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My last “emergency” they had to call the surgeon in from home as it was late in the evening. I didn’t think about his birthday, but I did wonder what I was taking him away from at home and how happy that may make him. Was it “meatloaf” night, his favorite TV program on that evening, maybe “date night” with the wife? But as I survived, I am just going to assume it was not his birthday.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’d have thought that rates would be higher for the day after the surgeon’s birthday, when the after-effects of the celebrations were being felt.

    And the BMJ is indeed a very well-respected publication here, so what they say must be right. Mustn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking the same thing; I wonder if they looked at the day after at all.
      And speaking of BMJ, it looks like they put out a Christmas issue every year that is a bit more on the light-hearted side of things. I believe this study is one such story,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting! I am proposing they use that day for research and administrative work instead of handson surgery. Although they may be a bit frustrated the day after, which will require a whole new research about the day after your doctor’s birthday 🙂

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