Surgical areas to face shortages of 14% to 42%

Most surgical specialties will experience a shortage of surgeons by 2020, a new study predicts.

Ophthalmology was listed as the No. 1 specialty likely to experience a shortage, with a 47% increase in demand projected, according to the study performed by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. Other projections for increases in demand by 2020 are:

  • cardiothoracic surgery, 42%;
  • urology surgeries, 35%;
  • general surgery, 31%;
  • orthopedics, 28%;
  • neurosurgery, 28%;
  • otolaryngology, 14%.

A major factor in the predicted increase is an aging population, researchers say.

Strategies such as offering assistance with time-consuming paperwork or making ORs run more efficiently may help surgeons use their time more efficiently, according to the lead author, David A. Etzioni, MD. More research needs to be done to identify areas that may help surgeons, he says.

The study developed a work force model using national surveys of medical and surgical services to establish a profile of age-specific rates of surgical use. The study is featured in the August 2003 issue of the Annals of Surgery.

For more information, go to (For additional information, see "General surgeon shortage expected to reach crisis level in next 5 years," Same-Day Surgery, August 2002, p. 97.)