AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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Study Asks Neurosurgeons: How Old Is Too Old to Perform Brain Surgery?

People sometimes joke that easy tasks are “not brain surgery.” But what happens when it actually is brain surgery? How old is too old to be a neurosurgeon? In a new Mayo Clinic Proceedings study, most neurosurgeons disagreed with an absolute age cutoff, but half favored additional testing for neurosurgeons 65 and older. Some professions, including commercial pilots, FBI agents and air traffic controllers, have mandatory retirement ages. This study is the first to survey neurosurgeons on their attitudes toward ceasing practice and testing in late career. “With an aging physician workforce nationwide, this study’s intriguing responses deserve reflection by the neurosurgical community,” says senior author Fredric Meyer, M.D., executive dean of education, Mayo Clinic, who is executive director of the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Dr. Meyer is the Juanita Kious Waugh Executive Dean of Education and the Alfred Uihlein Family Professor of Neurologic Surgery. “It’s important to focus on patient safety and also assess a neurosurgeon’s capacity over time,” Dr. Meyer says. “In the future, surgical simulator training and testing may become essential in continuing assessment of a surgeon’s technical and cognitive competency.” 

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