Objective To examine surgeon career phase and its association with surgical workload composition and outcomes of surgery.
Design Cross-sectional study.
Setting The study used data from calendar years 2004 through 2006 from 4 Florida general surgeon (GS) cohorts determined by years since board certification.
Participants American Board of Surgery–certified GSs regardless of subspecialty (n = 1187) performing 460 881 operations on adults 18 years or older.
Main Outcome Measures Workload composition based on the Clinical Classification System, complications identified by patient safety indicators, and in-hospital mortality. Poisson regression with robust error variance estimated adjusted rate ratios (RRs) for complications and mortality.
Results Compared with late-career surgeons, the rate of complications from cardiovascular procedures was higher for surgeons in the early-career phase (RR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.06-1.44) and the late middle–career phase (1.18; 1.02-1.37). The mortality rate for cardiovascular procedures also was higher for early-career surgeons (RR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.04-1.46). For digestive procedures, early-career surgeons had lower complication rates than late-career surgeons (RR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.75-0.99).
Conclusion Late-career GSs perform both better and worse compared with early-career GSs, relative to their workload composition and proportional surgical volume. Factors such as training and case complexity may contribute to these career-phase differences.