An analysis of the results of more than 16,000 brain and spine surgeries suggests patients have nothing to fear from having residents -- physicians-in-training -- assist in those operations. The contributions of residents, who work under the supervision and alongside senior physicians, do nothing to increase patients' risks of postoperative complications or of dying within 30 days of the surgery, the analysis showed.
A report on the study appears in the April issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery.
"Patients often ask whether a resident is going to be involved in their case, and they're usually not looking to have more residents involved," says Mohamad Bydon, M.D., himself a resident in neurosurgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. "Some people have a fear of being treated in a hospital that trains doctors."
To see whether that fear is borne out by real-world outcomes, Bydon worked with Judy Huang, M.D., a professor of neurosurgery and director of the neurosurgery residency program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and other collaborators to analyze data from the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database. Specifically, they examined outcomes for all patients who had brain and spine surgeries between 2006 and 2012 -- 16,098 in total.
The initial analysis appeared to affirm the fear, showing that patients operated on by a fully trained physician -- known as an attending -- plus a resident had a complication rate of 20.12 percent, while patients with only an attending had a complication rate of 11.7 percent. The patients operated on by attending plus residents also had a slightly higher risk of death within 30 days after the surgery.