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A Contemporary Reassessment of the US Surgical Workforce Through 2050 Predicts Continued Shortages and Increased Productivity Demands

Published Date January 01, 2022
Research Type


Background: We aimed to predict practicing surgeon workforce size across ten specialties to provide an up-to-date, national perspective on future surgical workforce shortages or surpluses.

Methods: Twenty-one years of AMA Masterfile data (1997-2017) were used to predict surgeons practicing from 2030 to 2050. Published ratios of surgeons/100,000 population were used to estimate the number of surgeons needed. MGMA median wRVU/surgeon by specialty (2017) was used to determine wRVU demand and capacity based on projected and needed number of surgeons.

Results: By 2030, surgeon shortages across nine specialties: Cardiothoracic, Otolaryngology, General Surgery, Obstetrics-Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Orthopedics, Plastics, Urology, and Vascular, are estimated to increase clinical workload by 10-50% additional wRVU. By 2050, shortages in eight specialties are estimated to increase clinical workload by 7-61% additional wRVU.

Conclusions: If historical trends continue, a majority of surgical specialties are estimated to experience workforce deficits, increasing clinical demands substantially.

Keywords: Surgeon retirement; Surgeon shortage; Surgeon workforce; Surgical education.