Accurate assessment of cognitive functioning is an important step in understanding how to better evaluate both clinical and cognitive competence in practicing surgeons. As part of the Cognitive Changes and Retirement among Senior Surgeons study, we examined the objective cognitive functioning of senior surgeons in relation to retirement status and age.Computerized cognitive tasks measuring visual sustained attention, reaction time, and visual learning and memory were administered to both practicing and retired surgeons at annual meetings of the American College of Surgeons. Data from 168 senior surgeons aged 60 and older were compared with data from 126 younger surgeons aged 45 to 59, with performance below 1.5 standard deviations or more indicating a significant difference between the groups.Sixty-one percent of practicing senior surgeons performed within the range of the younger surgeons on all cognitive tasks. Seventy-eight percent of practicing senior surgeons aged 60 to 64 performed within the range of the younger surgeons on all tasks compared with 38% of practicing senior surgeons aged 70 and older. Forty-five percent of retired senior surgeons performed within the range of the younger surgeons on all tasks. No senior surgeon performed below the younger surgeons on all 3 tasks.The majority of practicing senior surgeons performed at or near the level of their younger peers on all cognitive tasks, as did almost half of the retired senior surgeons. This suggests that older age does not inevitably preclude cognitive proficiency. The variability in cognitive performance across age groups and retirement status suggests the need for formal measures of objective cognitive functioning to help surgeons detect changes in cognitive performance and aid in their decisions to retire.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2010.05.022
View details for Web of Science ID 000281708500001
View details for PubMedID 20800185