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Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Diversity Among Academic Surgical Leaders in the US.

Surgical department chairs remain conspicuously nondiverse despite the recognized importance of diverse physician workforces. However, the extent of diversity among non-chair leadership remains underexplored. To evaluate racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of surgical department chairs, vice chairs (VCs), and division chiefs (DCs) in the US. For this cross-sectional study, publicly accessible medical school and affiliated hospital websites in the US and Puerto Rico were searched from January 15 to July 15, 2022, to collect demographic and leadership data about surgical faculty. Two independent reviewers abstracted demographic data, with up to 2 additional reviewers assisting with coding resolution as necessary. In all, 2165 faculty were included in the analyses. Proportions of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity among chairs, VCs, and DCs in general surgery and 5 surgical specialties (neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, and otolaryngology). A total of 2165 faculty (1815 males [83.8%] and 350 females [16.2%]; 109 [5.0%] African American or Black individuals; 347 [16.0%] Asian individuals; 83 [3.8%] Hispanic, Latino, or individuals of Spanish origin; and 1624 [75.0%] White individuals as well as 2 individuals [0.1%] of other race or ethnicity) at 154 surgical departments affiliated with 146 medical schools in the US and Puerto Rico were included in the analysis. There were more males than females in leadership positions at all levels-chairs (85.9% vs 14.1%), VCs (68.4% vs 31.6%), and DCs (87.1% vs 12.9%)-and only 192 leaders (8.9%) were from racial or ethnic groups that are underrepresented in medicine (URiM). Females occupied more VC than chair or DC positions both overall (31.6% vs 14.1% and 12.9%, respectively) and within racial and ethnic groups (African American or Black females, 4.0% VC vs 1.5% chair and 0.6% DC positions; P < .001). URiM individuals were most commonly VCs of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI, 51.6%) or faculty development (17.9%). Vice chairs of faculty development were split equally between males and females, while 64.5% of VCs for DEI were female. All other VCs were predominantly male. Among DC roles, URiM representation was greatest in transplant surgery (13.8%) and lowest in oral and maxillofacial surgery (5.0%). Except for breast and endocrine surgery (63.6% female), females comprised less than 20% of DC roles. Nearly half of DCs (6 of 13 [46.2%]) and VCs (4 of 9 [44.4%]) had no female URiM leaders, and notably, no American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander individuals were identified in any surgical leadership positions. While it is unclear whether promotion from VC to chair or from DC to chair is more likely, these findings of similar gender distribution between chairs and DCs suggest the latter and may partially explain persistent nondiversity among surgical chairs. Female and URiM surgical leaders are disproportionately clustered in roles (eg, VCs of DEI or faculty development) that may not translate into future promotion to department chairs.

Gender Differences in Medicare Practice and Payments to Neurosurgeons

Despite efforts to promote diversity within the neurosurgical workforce, individuals from underrepresented groups face significant challenges. To compare practice metrics and earning potential between female and male neurosurgeons and investigate factors associated with gender disparity in Medicare reimbursement. This retrospective cross-sectional study used publicly accessible Medicare data on reimbursements to female and male neurosurgeons for procedural and evaluation and management services delivered in both inpatient and outpatient settings between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2020. Data were analyzed from December 9, 2021, to December 5, 2022. The primary outcome was the mean annual payments received and charges submitted by female and male neurosurgeons for services rendered between 2013 and 2020. Secondary outcomes included the total number and types of services rendered each year and the number of beneficiaries treated. Univariate and multivariable analyses quantified differences in payment, practice volume, and composition. A total of 6052 neurosurgeons (5540 men [91.54%]; 512 women [8.46%]) served the Medicare fee-for-service patient population. Female neurosurgeons billed for lesser Medicare charges (mean [SE], $395 851.62 [$19 449.39] vs $766 006.80 [$11 751.66]; P < .001) and were reimbursed substantially less (mean [SE], $69 520.89 [$2701.30] vs $124 324.64 [$1467.93]; P < .001). Multivariable regression controlling for practice volume metrics revealed a persistent reimbursement gap (-$24 885.29 [95% CI, -$27 964.72 to -$21 805.85]; P < .001). Females were reimbursed $24.61 less per service than males even after matching services by code (P = .02). This study found significant gender-based variation in practice patterns and reimbursement among neurosurgeons serving the Medicare fee-for-service population. Female surgeons were reimbursed less than male surgeons when both performed the same primary procedure. Lower mean reimbursement per service may represent divergence in billing and coding practices among females and males that could be the focus of future research or educational initiatives.

Hiatal Hernia Repair With Tension-Free Mesh or Crural Sutures Alone in Antireflux Surgery

Antireflux surgery is an effective treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but the durability of concomitant hiatal hernia repair remains challenging. Previous research reported that the use of a mesh-reinforced, tension-free technique was associated with more dysphagia for solid foods after 3 years without reducing hiatal hernia recurrence rates compared with crural sutures alone, but the long-term effects of this technique have not been assessed. To assess the long-term anatomical and functional outcomes of using a mesh for hiatal hernia repair in patients with GERD. A double-blind, randomized clinical trial was performed at a single center (Ersta Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden) from January 11, 2006, to December 1, 2010. A total of 159 patients were recruited and randomly assigned. Data for the current analysis were collected from September 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. All analyses were conducted with the intention-to-treat population. Closure of the diaphragmatic hiatus with crural sutures alone vs a tension-free technique using a nonabsorbable polytetrafluoroethylene mesh (Bard CruraSoft). The primary outcome was radiologically verified recurrent hiatal hernia after more than 10 years. Secondary outcomes were dysphagia scores (ranging from 1 to 4, with 1 indicating no episodes of dysphagia and 4 indicating more than 3 episodes of dysphagia per day) for solid and liquid foods, generic 36-Item Short Form Health Survey and disease-specific Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale symptom assessment scores, proton pump inhibitor consumption, and reoperation rates. Intergroup comparisons of parametric data were performed using t tests; for nonparametric data, Mann-Whitney U, χ2, or Fisher exact tests were used. For intragroup comparisons vs the baseline at follow-up times, the Friedman test was used, and post hoc analysis was performed using Wilcoxon matched pairs. Of 145 available patients, follow-up data were obtained from 103 (response rate 71%; mean [SD] age at follow-up, 65 [11.3] years; 55 [53%] female), with 53 initially randomly assigned to mesh reinforcement, and 50 to crural suture alone. The mean (SD) follow-up time was 13 (1.1) years. The verified radiologic hiatal hernia recurrence rates were 11 of 29 (38%) in the mesh group vs 11 of 35 (31%) in the suture group (P = .61). However, 13 years postoperatively, mean (SD) dysphagia scores for solids remained significantly higher in the mesh group (mean [SD], 1.9 [0.7] vs 1.6 [0.9]; P = .01). Findings from this long-term follow-up of a randomized clinical trial suggest that tension-free crural repair with nonabsorbable mesh does not reduce the incidence of hiatal hernia recurrence 13 years postoperatively. This finding combined with maintained higher dysphagia scores does not support the routine use of tension-free polytetrafluoroethylene mesh closure in laparoscopic hiatal hernia repair for treatment of GERD. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05069493.

Changes in Older Adult Trauma Quality When Evaluated Using Longer-Term Outcomes vs In-Hospital Mortality

Lack of knowledge about longer-term outcomes remains a critical blind spot for trauma systems. Recent efforts have expanded trauma quality evaluation to include a broader array of postdischarge quality metrics. It remains unknown how such quality metrics should be used. To examine the utility of implementing recommended postdischarge quality metrics as a composite score and ascertain how composite score performance compares with that of in-hospital mortality for evaluating associations with hospital-level factors. This national hospital-level quality assessment evaluated hospital-level care quality using 100% Medicare fee-for-service claims of older adults (aged ≥65 years) hospitalized with primary diagnoses of trauma, hip fracture, and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2015. Hospitals with annual volumes encompassing 10 or more of each diagnosis were included. The data analysis was performed between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2022. Reliability-adjusted quality metrics used to calculate composite scores included hospital-specific performance on mortality, readmission, and patients' average number of healthy days at home (HDAH) within 30, 90, and 365 days among older adults hospitalized with all forms of trauma, hip fracture, and severe TBI. Associations with hospital-level factors were compared using volume-weighted multivariable logistic regression. A total of 573 554 older adults (mean [SD] age, 83.1 [8.3] years; 64.8% female; 35.2% male) from 1234 hospitals were included. All 27 reliability-adjusted postdischarge quality metrics significantly contributed to the composite score. The most important drivers were 30- and 90-day readmission, patients' average number of HDAH within 365 days, and 365-day mortality among all trauma patients. Associations with hospital-level factors revealed predominantly anticipated trends when older adult trauma quality was evaluated using composite scores (eg, worst performance was associated with decreased older adult trauma volume [odds ratio, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.88-0.90]). Results for in-hospital mortality showed inverted associations for each considered hospital-level factor and suggested that compared with nontrauma centers, level 1 trauma centers had a 17 times higher risk-adjusted odds of worst (highest quantile) vs best (lowest quintile) performance (odds ratio, 17.08; 95% CI, 16.17-18.05). The study results challenge historical notions about the adequacy of in-hospital mortality as the single measure of older adult trauma quality and suggest that, when it comes to older adults, decisions about how quality is evaluated can profoundly alter understandings of what constitutes best practices for care. Composite scores appear to offer a promising means by which postdischarge quality metrics could be used.