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Surgeons' Unprofessional Behavior Tied to Higher Complication Risk

Risk increased when four or more reports were made in the 36 months before a patient's surgery

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WEDNESDAY, June 19, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Patients whose surgeons have higher numbers of coworker reports about unprofessional behavior may be at increased risk for postsurgical complications, according to a study published online June 19 in JAMA Surgery.

William O. Cooper, M.D., from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and colleagues used data from two geographically diverse academic medical centers participating in the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program to assess the relationship between postoperative complications and unprofessional behavior by surgeons.

The researchers identified 13,653 patients (54 percent female; mean age, 57 years) who underwent operations by 202 surgeons (70.8 percent male). In total, 11.6 percent of patients experienced a complication, including 6 percent surgical and 7.8 percent medical. Patients whose surgeons had more coworker reports of unprofessional behavior were significantly more likely to experience any complication (zero reports, 10.7 percent complications versus at least four reports, 14.1 percent), including more surgical complications (zero reports, 5.8 percent complications versus at least four reports, 7.6 percent complications) and medical complications (zero reports, 7.1 percent complications versus at least four reports, 9.4 percent complications). Compared with patients whose surgeons had no coworker reports, the adjusted complication rate was 14.3 percent higher for patients whose surgeons had one to three reports and 11.9 percent higher for patients whose surgeons had at least four reports.

"These findings suggest that organizations interested in ensuring optimal patient outcomes should focus on addressing surgeons whose behavior toward other medical professionals may increase patients' risk for adverse outcomes," the authors write.

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