Surgeons outperform normative controls on neuropsychologic tests, but age-related decay of skills persists

Am J Surg. 2008 Feb;195(2):205-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2007.11.002.


Background: The present study was undertaken to determine if psychomotor and visual-spatial abilities improve as a result of surgical training or are enhanced at baseline in those individuals choosing a surgical career.

Methods: Medical students entering a surgical field and practicing surgeons performed a series of neuropsychologic tests. Performance was compared between surgeon groups, as well as with normative aged-matched controls.

Results: An age-related decline was noted in the performance of all exercises, with the medical student group outperforming the midcareer surgeons, who in turn outperformed the senior surgeons. Interestingly, however, all 3 groups significantly outperformed their normative control groups on some or all tasks.

Conclusions: Improved visual memory and psychomotor performance compared with normative controls appears to be present at baseline rather than resulting from surgical training. Decline in performance with age is observed, however, and this should be considered when an older surgeon is learning new visually complex procedures.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Probability
  • Reference Values
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Students, Medical
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / education
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Visual Perception / physiology*