Effect of Surgeon Specialty on Processes of Care and Outcomes for Ovarian Cancer Patients

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BackgroundFor many diseases, specialized care (i.e., care rendered by a specialist) has been associated with superior-quality care (i.e., better outcomes). We examined associations between physician specialty and outcomes in a population-based cohort of elderly ovarian cancer surgery patients.MethodsWe analyzed the Medicare claims, by physician specialty, of all women aged 65 years or older who underwent surgery for pathologically confirmed invasive epithelial ovarian cancer between January 1, 1992, and December 31, 1999, while living in an area monitored by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program to assess important care processes (i.e., the appropriate extent of surgery and use of adjuvant chemotherapy) and outcomes (i.e., surgical complications, ostomy rates, and survival). All statistical tests were two-sided.ResultsAmong 3067 ovarian cancer patients who underwent surgery, 1017 patients (33%) were treated by a gynecologic oncologist, 1377 patients (45%) by a general gynecologist, and 673 patients (22%) by a general surgeon. Among patients with stage I or II disease, those treated by a gynecologic oncologist (60%) were more likely to undergo lymph node dissection than those treated by a general gynecologist (36%) or a general surgeon (16%). Patients with stage III or IV disease were more likely to undergo a debulking procedure if the initial surgery was performed by a gynecologic oncologist (58%) than by a general gynecologist (51%) or a general surgeon (40%; P<.001) and were more likely to receive postoperative chemotherapy when operated on by a gynecologic oncologist (79%) or a general gynecologist (76%) than by a general surgeon (62%, P<.001). Survival among patients operated on by gynecologic oncologists (hazard ratio [HR] of death from any cause=0.85, 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.76 to 0.95) or general gynecologists (HR=0.86, 95% CI=0.78 to 0.96) was better than that among patients operated on by general surgeons.ConclusionsOvarian cancer patients treated by gynecologic oncologists had marginally better outcomes than those treated by general gynecologists and clearly superior outcomes compared with patients treated by general surgeons.

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