For the safest surgery, pick a doctor aged 35-50
PATIENTS can expect safer care if their surgeon is aged 35 to 50, research suggests.
Previous studies have found experts tend to reach their "peak performance" after about 10 years in their specialty.
Older doctors who have been in practice for a long time might have less factual knowledge and be less likely to adhere to evidence-based medicine which risks the safety of care.
The latest research, published online in the British Medical Journal, backs up this view, finding that surgeons aged 35 to 50 offer safer surgery than their younger or older counterparts.
A team led by experts at the University of Lyon in France examined links between surgeons' experience and the risk of patients suffering complications following thyroid surgery.
Overall, 28 surgeons completed 3,574 thyroid procedures during a one-year period.
The results found that surgeons with 20 years or more of practice had a three times higher risk of a patient suffering recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy (leading to severe hoarseness) and more than seven times the risk of hypoparathyroidism (damage to glands).
The research also found that younger doctors performed less well in the operating theatre.
The authors said further research is needed because other unknown or unmeasured factors may explain some of the variation in complication rates.
Professor Mike Larvin, director of education at the Royal College of Surgeons in the UK, said: "This interesting study shows the importance of lifelong learning for surgeons - something the RCS supports by directly running courses for trainees and consultants and quality assuring courses run by others."