The Problem of the Aging Surgeon: When Surgeon Age Becomes a Surgical Risk Factor

Abstract

The question of when a surgeon should retire has been the subject of debate for decades. Both anecdotal evidence and objective testing of surgeons suggest age causes deterioration in physical and cognitive performance. Medical education, residency and fellowship training, and technology evolve at a rapid pace, and the older a surgeon is, the more likely it is he or she is remote from his or her initial education in his or her specialty. Research also shows surgeons are reluctant to plan for retirement. Although there is no federally mandated retirement age for surgeons in the United States, surgeons must realize their skills will decline, a properly planned retirement can be satisfying, and the retired surgeon has much to offer the medical and teaching community.

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Acknowledgments

I thank Lazar J. Greenfield, MD, for forcing me to think of this problem for the past 20 plus years.

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Correspondence to Ralph B. Blasier MD, JD.

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The author certifies that he or she has no commercial associations (eg, consultancies, stock ownership, equity interest, patent/licensing arrangements, etc) that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted article.

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Blasier, R.B. The Problem of the Aging Surgeon: When Surgeon Age Becomes a Surgical Risk Factor. Clin Orthop Relat Res 467, 402–411 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11999-008-0587-7

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Keywords

  • Retirement Plan
  • Mandatory Retirement
  • Residency Education
  • Compelling State Interest
  • Specialty Education