Contributions of the Surgical Sciences to a Reduction of the Mortality Rate in the United States for the Period 1968 to 1988

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ObjectiveThe authors sought to determine whether advances in the surgical sciences have led to a reduction in mortality rates for diseases treated by surgery during the past 25 years. They also wished to study changes in health care manpower for perioperative care during this period.Summary Background DataSurgical operations requiring general anesthesia in the United States have risen to 25 million per year at an annual cost of approximately $125 billion. During the period 1968 to 1988, the number of anesthesiologists per 100,000 persons in the United States increased 98%, although the number of surgeons remained relatively constant. Between 1980 and 1989, the number of radiologists per 100,000 persons decreased to 29% below the figure for 1965. Membership in specialized nursing societies increased dramatically.MethodsThe authors used vital statistics data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to examine the mortality rates for diseases of the prostate, appendix, and gallbladder; hernia and intestinal obstruction; and ulcerative disease of the stomach and duodenum for the years 1968, 1978, and 1988. NCHS hospital discharge data were used to derive the rates of hospitalization and surgery for these conditions. Information on changes in health care manpower was obtained from published and other sources.ResultsThe mortality rates for the five diseases studied decreased from 40% to 69% between 1968 and 1978. Between 1978 and 1988, the mortality rates caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia declined an additional 54% and by appendicitis, an additional 43%. Deaths attributable to the other conditions remained relatively constant. The rates of hospitalization and surgery for these conditions varied.Conclusionsadvances in surgery, anesthesiology, and information transfer and the availability of intensive care units and specialized hospital personnel have resulted in reduced mortality rates for diseases treated by surgery.

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