Gender Differences in Who Survives Abdominal Surgery

Generally, a gut-check is an informal, instinctive assessment. But researchers at the University of San Diego Health System took matters literally in studying the impact of gender in major gastrointestinal surgery. They found that women are more likely than men to survive the procedure.

Published in the Journal of Surgical Research, “The Battle of the Sexes: Women Win Out in Gastrointestinal Surgery” examines the major differences that affect treatment success, and aims to create new therapies that improve survivability of surgical patients.

“[M]edical outcomes could be optimized by tailoring therapies based upon each individual’s unique genetic make-up as well as other characteristics. Gender is among the most important traits,” said Carrie Y. Peterson, M.D., lead author of the study. Among the procedures that fell under her scientific knife: stomach, intestinal, liver and pancreatic surgeries.

“The results suggest that female hormones might enhance the immune system — a process previously shown in animal models and also observed in trauma patients,” said Peterson. “Thus, there is a hope that negating the effects of testosterone or giving estrogen to male patients could be considered part of a treatment plan.”

Other factors that might contribute to higher survivability rates:

  • females have more elective operations;
  • females have surgery more often in teaching hospitals; and
  • when symptoms occur, females seek medical attention sooner than men.
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