If you need surgery, it should reassure you to know that researchers have been studying factors that predict surgical success or failure for years. Some of the most important findings have been ones you might expect.
For example, studies have found that hospitals and medical centers that perform a lot of hip and knee replacements tend to have lower complication rates than those performing fewer operations. As a result, there is a trend for people needing these surgeries to have them performed at high-volume centers. Similarly, surgeons who frequently perform hip or knee replacement surgery tend to have better results than those who perform them rarely. Studies like these have been published for a number of other operations and conditions.
Less obvious factors to consider in scheduling surgeries
It might surprise you to learn that less obvious factors have also been studied. For example, researchers have examined whether
- surgical outcomes are worse at teaching hospitals in July, when new medical and surgical trainees begin (a phenomenon called “the July effect”). The findings are mixed: some studies find it’s true and others debunk the idea.
- music played in the operating room — including loud or soft, classical or upbeat, or no music at all — is helpful or harmful. Again, the evidence is mixed.
- surgical success may vary based on the dominant hand of your surgeon. In one study of cataract surgery, patients operated on by left-handed surgical trainees had fewer complications than those operated on by right-handed trainees.
Another surprising surgical study: Birthdays
A new study published in the medical journal The BMJ attempted to answer a question I would never have thought to ask: if a surgeon performs an operation on his or her birthday, does it affect the chances that their patient will survive?