articles-540x180The supply of surgeons in the United States will decrease by nearly one-fifth by 2028, likely resulting in shortages in all but a handful of specialties, a study has shown.

Currently proposed changes to increase resident surgeons will not be enough to increase the number of surgeons who will retire, predicted Erin P. Fraher, Ph.D., of the department of surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues. If this trend continues, the overall supply of full-time-equivalent surgeons will have decreased 18% between 2009 and 2028, with declines in all specialties except colorectal, pediatric, neurologic, and vascular surgery.

Surgeons’ participation in patient care declines somewhat after age 60, making age a key factor in determining full-time equivalents for each specialty. Another factor considered in modeling was the “feminization” of various specialties. By 2019, Dr. Fraher and colleagues predicted, half of general surgery residents will be female, compared with 95% of obstetrics and gynecology residents and 28% of orthopedic surgery residents.

Furthermore, an estimated 25% of general surgery cases that have traditionally been performed by surgical specialists will, in the future, need to be made up by general surgeons, the investigators said.

Source: Ann. Surg. 2012 doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e31826fccfa