Results from the cognitive changes and retirement among senior surgeons self-report survey

J Am Coll Surg. 2009 Nov;209(5):668-671.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2009.08.004. Epub 2009 Sep 19.


Background: The Cognitive Changes and Retirement among Senior Surgeons (CCRASS) study suggested that although subjective cognitive awareness may play a role in surgeons' retirement decisions, self-perceived cognitive decline did not predict objective cognitive performance. This article summarizes results from all participants who completed the survey portion of the CCRASS study.

Study design: A survey examining subjective cognitive changes, changes in caseload, involvement in new technology, and retirement decisions, was administered to 995 surgeons at annual meetings of the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons between 2001 and 2006.

Results: Forty-five percent reported increased caseload volume and 48% reported increased caseload complexity during the previous 5 years. In addition, 75% and 73% denied any recent changes in memory recall or name recognition, respectively. Increasing age was associated with decreases in clinical caseload and complexity. The majority of respondents across all age groups reported active participation in either learning (64%) or contributing (13%) to new technology in the field. Among surgeons with no imminent plans for retirement, 58% reported that a retirement decision will be based on skill level.

Conclusions: Increasing age was associated with decreases in caseload and case complexity. But a steady proportion of surgeons, even in the oldest age group, are active in new surgical innovations and challenging cases. Most reported no changes in perceived cognitive abilities. The majority of surgeons who had made no decision to retire reported that their decision will be based on skill level rather than age.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • General Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Retirement*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce
  • Workload