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UCLA study reveals surgeon shortage

When you need a qualified surgeon in the coming years, will there be one available? Maybe not, according to a new study by UCLA researchers.

Due to an aging population, demand for surgery will increase nearly 50 percent for some specialties by the year 2020. The new study, featured in the August 2003 issue of the Annals of Surgery, predicts shortages for most surgical specialties.

Researchers found that surgeries performed predominantly on older adults, such as cataract and heart surgery, will have the highest increase in demand by the year 2020; ophthalmology led with a 47 percent increase in demand, closely followed by cardiothoracic surgery with a 42 percent increase.

UCLA lead author Dr. David A. Etzioni said that almost 60 percent of the surgical procedures analyzed were more commonly performed on adults aged 65 and older, compared to other age groups. The study also showed that by the year 2020, the largest population surge will be in the 65 and older age group -- increasing by 53 percent.

"We need to develop more effective ways to address the medical and surgical needs of older adults, as well as provide strategies to support surgeons," said Etzioni, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar in the Division of General Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Historically, according to Etzioni, studies pointed to the need for more primary care physicians. In recent years, however, that trend may be changing as research is starting to support the need for more specialists. "With expanding technology and increasing numbers of older patients, we are seeing a need for more specialists in surgery and geriatric medicine," he said.

Etzioni said that already there isn't enough time to train new surgeons to avoid a shortage, since it takes eight to 14 years to train surgeons. He noted that other strategies may help surgeons use their time more efficiently, such as receiving assistance with time-consuming
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Contact: Rachel Champeau
rchampeau@support.ucla.edu
310-794-0777
University of California - Los Angeles
23-Jul-2003


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