Men more likely to get recommended for operation: Study

Women are less likely than men to get recommended for total knee replacement surgery — even if they have the same set of symptoms and complaints, a small University of Toronto study suggests.

And the researchers say subtle gender bias by physicians and surgeons may be to blame.


The study, published yesterday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found family physicians were twice as likely to recommend total knee replacement surgery to a male patient than a female patient.

The researchers sent two "mystery" patients, one male and one female, to 38 family doctors and 29 orthopedic surgeons in Ontario. The patients each had moderate knee osteoarthritis, and both complained of knee pain, listed the same symptoms and asked the physicians whether they "needed a new knee." Orthopedic surgeons were nine times more likely to recommend surgery to a man than a woman, according to the findings.

"Our research demonstrates that physicians may be partially responsible for the gender disparity in rates of joint replacement," she said.

first of its kind

  • It is the first study to use standardized patients to test physicians for gender bias, said lead author Cornelia Borkhoff, who conducted the research at U of T’s department of health policy, management and evaluation.