WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
March 10, 2008 -- Men may be more likely than women to have a doctor advise
them to get total knee replacement surgery --
even with the same knee problems.
So say Canadian researchers who sent a man and a woman -- who
had exactly the same extent of knee damage caused by osteoarthritis -- to 67 doctors in Ontario.
Before the patients set foot in a doctor's office, they were coached by the
researchers in how to describe their knee problem and, if the doctor didn't
bring up the subject, to ask, "Do you think I need a new knee?" The
point was for the patients to present their conditions as similarly as
About two-thirds of the doctors -- 67% -- recommended total knee replacement
surgery (total knee arthroplasty) to the man. Roughly half as many -- 33%
-- recommended it to the woman.
"A male patient was twice as likely as a female patient to receive a
recommendation for total knee arthroplasty," write the researchers, who
included Cornelia Borkhoff, PhD, and James Wright, MD, MPH, of The Hospital for
Sick Children in Toronto.
Gender bias on the part of the doctors may explain the results, Borkhoff's
"Our findings suggest that physicians are prone to the same automatic,
unconscious, and ubiquitous social stereotyping that affect all of our
behavior," write the researchers. "Acknowledging that a gender bias may
affect physicians' decision-making is the first step toward ensuring that women
receive complete and equal access to joint arthroplasty."
The data doesn't show whether doctors' gender or age affected the
The study appears in the March 11 edition of the Canadian Medical
SOURCE:Borkhoff, C. Canadian Medical Association Journal, March 11, 2008;
vol 178: pp 681-687.
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