The demographics and operative experience of general surgeons certified by the American Board of Surgery were last examined a decade ago. This study examines the contemporary workforce and scope of practice of general surgeons.
Applications of diplomates seeking American Board of Surgery recertification from 2013 to 2017 were reviewed. Demographic data and case logs from the year before submission were analyzed. Total operative volume was examined, as were total volumes for 13 operative domains and 11 abdominal and alimentary tract subdomains.
There were 4,735 general surgeons certified by the American Board of Surgery with a mean ± SD age of 53 ± 8 years and included 19% women and 14% international graduates. Regions of practice were 22% Northeast, 31% Southeast, 20% Midwest, 20% West, and 7% Southwest. Practice settings were 86% urban, 9% large rural, 4% small rural, and 1% isolated. Forty-one percent were 10 years, 35% were 20 years, and 24% were 30 years since initial certification. On average, general surgeons performed 417 ± 338 procedures per year, with abdominal, alimentary tract, and endoscopy being the most common. On multivariable analysis, male sex and being midcareer or late career were positively associated with being a high-volume (top quartile) surgeon, whereas age and practicing in either the Northeast or West demonstrated a negative association.
The demographics of general surgeons have remained stable over time, except for an increased proportion of female surgeons. The overall operative experience is similar to years past but is widely variable between surgeons. Periodic analysis of these data is important for education and certification purposes.