Surgeon availability linked to better trauma survival rate

Better distribution of surgical care throughout the U.S. could promote better health outcomes--especially with trauma related to motor vehicle crashes, one of the leading causes of death nationwide, according to researchers at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine.

Surgery in the U.S. continues to be seen as tertiary care and is mainly centered at large urban hospitals, creating an unequal distribution of surgical providers, according to a study published today in the Journal of American College of Surgeons.

But the California study found that an increase of at least one surgeon per million persons in population was associated with 0.16 fewer motor vehicle-related deaths. An increase in the number of general practitioners would not provide the same benefits, they found. This insufficient availability of surgeons in certain regions of the country significantly lowers the quality of patient care and leads to unnecessary loss of lives, the researchers said.

To examine how access to surgical care impacts health outcomes, the researchers focused on motor vehicle crashes. They found that after adjusting for factors such as density of population, urban versus rural location, and socioeconomic status, "a significant inverse association" existed between the number of surgeons and the number of road traffic injury-related deaths, especially in rural areas.

Regions with a larger number of surgeons showed lower mortality rates. This suggested that motor vehicle crash victims may get more timely surgical treatment--and therefore be at lower risk of death, they said.

For more information:
- access the study 
- read this press release


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