Most surgical specialties will confront shortages by the year 2020, according to a new study that cites the increasing demands of an aging population.
The study, in the August issue of the Annals of Surgery, says demand will rise substantially for some specialties by 2010, then reach levels from 14% to 47% higher than today by 2020.
It says demand will be highest in ophthalmology, due mainly to increased need for cataract surgery, and cardiothoracic surgery, due to the heart problems in the elderly.
There probably isn't enough time to plan for more surgeons to avoid a shortage, since the training itself takes eight to 14 years, says David Etzioni, M.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a UCLA release.
Instead, "we need to develop more effective ways to address the medical and surgical needs of older adults, as well as provide strategies to support surgeons," he says.
The study concludes that almost 60% of surgical procedures analyzed are most often performed on the elderly. It also finds that by the year 2020, the largest population surge will be in the 65-and-older age group, which will increase by 53%.
Specifically, the study finds:
- Ophthalmology led all surgical areas, with a 15% increase by the year 2010 and a 47% increase by 2020.
- Cardiothoracic surgery followed closely with a 42% growth in demand by 2020.
- General surgery--including vascular, abdominal, gastrointestinal, hernia, breast and pediatric surgery--will grow by 13% by the year 2010 and by 31% by 2020.
- Urology--performing procedures involving the kidney, prostate and bladder--will increase 35% by 2020.
- Orthopedic surgery--including surgery of the knee, shoulder and other joints--will increase 28% by 2020.
- Neurosurgery will increase 28% by 2020.
- Otolaryngology will have the smallest increase--14% by 2020--because many patients are under age 15, an age group that will see little growth.