Association between anaesthesia-surgery team sex diversity and major morbidity

Br J Surg. 2024 May 3;111(5):znae097. doi: 10.1093/bjs/znae097.


Background: Team diversity is recognized not only as an equity issue but also a catalyst for improved performance through diversity in knowledge and practices. However, team diversity data in healthcare are limited and it is not known whether it may affect outcomes in surgery. This study examined the association between anaesthesia-surgery team sex diversity and postoperative outcomes.

Methods: This was a population-based retrospective cohort study of adults undergoing major inpatient procedures between 2009 and 2019. The exposure was the hospital percentage of female anaesthetists and surgeons in the year of surgery. The outcome was 90-day major morbidity. Restricted cubic splines were used to identify a clinically meaningful dichotomization of team sex diversity, with over 35% female anaesthetists and surgeons representing higher diversity. The association with outcomes was examined using multivariable logistic regression.

Results: Of 709 899 index operations performed at 88 hospitals, 90-day major morbidity occurred in 14.4%. The median proportion of female anaesthetists and surgeons was 28 (interquartile range 25-31)% per hospital per year. Care in hospitals with higher sex diversity (over 35% female) was associated with reduced odds of 90-day major morbidity (OR 0.97, 95% c.i. 0.95 to 0.99; P = 0.02) after adjustment. The magnitude of this association was greater for patients treated by female anaesthetists (OR 0.92, 0.88 to 0.97; P = 0.002) and female surgeons (OR 0.83, 0.76 to 0.90; P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Care in hospitals with greater anaesthesia-surgery team sex diversity was associated with better postoperative outcomes. Care in a hospital reaching a critical mass with over 35% female anaesthetists and surgeons, representing higher team sex-diversity, was associated with a 3% lower odds of 90-day major morbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Physicians, Women / statistics & numerical data
  • Postoperative Complications* / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications* / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgeons / statistics & numerical data
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / statistics & numerical data