How Old Is too Old to Operate?
Biloine W. Young • Mon, August 4th, 2014
Zack Budryk, a writer for MedScape, asks the question, noting that in 2010 the medical specialties with the highest number of over-55 practicing practitioners were in thoracic surgery, 51.6%, orthopedic surgery, 49.7% and urology, 49.3%.
An analysis of 460,000 Medicare surgical patients found that complex procedures had higher mortality rates for surgeons over 60 years old than they did for surgeons age 41 to 50. Budryk notes that the reason for this may not be related to the surgeons’ age but rather to older physicians’ reported resistance to adopting more modern tools and techniques.
Nevertheless some institutions are increasing their scrutiny of older practitioners. Stanford University Medical Center in September 2012 implemented a policy requiring physical and mental screening every two years for medical staff beginning when they reach age 75.
Budryk reports that Sinai Hospital in Maryland has founded the Aging Surgeon Program, which incorporates interviews, testing and physical exams for staff surgeons that are designed to catch developing problems early.