New study asks neurosurgeons ‘how old is too old to operate?’

How old is too old to be performing brain surgery? According to a new study, most neurosurgeons disagree with an absolute age cutoff but roughly half favor additional testing when the surgeon is 65 or older.

While participants in the study say there should be some sort of testing for aging surgeons, those at Mayo Clinic Health System say in most cases, that oversight is already built in.

“So if you belong to an organization like Mayo, that oversight is actually built in because we review cases through a morbidity and mortality process. So my colleagues see all of my case results and do quality assurance on those cases. If you were a private practitioner, unless the hospital system you work in participates in that type of process, then there’s very little oversight,” said Dr. Charles Watts, a consultant neurosurgeon.

More than one-third of all neurosurgeons in the U.S. are 55 or older.