In this study, experience was measured not by age or years as a surgeon but by the number of times doctors performed this operation.
“Advice for patients is to try to seek out experienced surgeons, and they’re likely to be ones who specialize in the procedure,” Andrew Vickers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, one of the researchers, said in a telephone interview.
The researchers followed 7,765 prostate cancer patients who underwent an operation called radical prostatectomy performed by 72 surgeons at four U.S. academic medical centers in New York, Texas, Michigan and Ohio from 1987 to 2003.
As the number of times a doctor performed it increased, the number of patients who remained cancer-free five years after the surgery also rose, the researchers wrote in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
But at a certain point the improvement in surgical outcome topped out and stabilized regardless of how many more times a surgeon did the procedure.
“The learning curve for prostate cancer recurrence after radical prostatectomy was steep and did not start to plateau until a surgeon had completed approximately 250 prior operations,” the researchers wrote.
Surgeons should not be judged on their age or years of experience (35 years old and 8 years of experience for me), but by the number of prostates they have removed. This is one of many studies that shows better cure rates from more experienced surgeons.
This study looked at open surgeries, but I think robotics will also be similar. My personal numbers are over 500 prostatectomies of all types and over 350 robotic prostatectomies.