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.