Research: Analysis of Pediatric Surgery Using the National Healthcare Insurance Service Database in Korea: How Many Pediatric Surgeons Do We Need in Korea?

J Korean Med Sci

. 2021 May 10;36(18):e116. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2021.36.e116.

Analysis of Pediatric Surgery Using the National Healthcare Insurance Service Database in Korea: How Many Pediatric Surgeons Do We Need in Korea?

Chaeyoun Oh 1Sanghoon Lee 2Hye Kyung Chang 3Soo Min Ahn 4Kyunghee Chae 5Sujeong Kim 5Sukil Kim 5Jeong Meen Seo 6Affiliations expand

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Background: In the past, general surgeons (GSs) without a pediatric surgical subspecialty often performed surgery on children and, even now, GSs are performing many pediatric surgeries. We aimed to investigate the involvement of pediatric surgeons (PSs) and GSs in pediatric surgery, compare the outcomes of surgery in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and estimate the appropriate PS workforce in Korea.

Methods: We used surgical data from the National Health Insurance Service database that was collected from patients under the age of 19 years in hospitals nationwide from January 2002 to December 2017. In this database, we found 37 hospitals where PSs worked by using the index operation (congenital diaphragmatic hernia, esophageal atresia, hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, Hirschsprung’s disease, abdominal wall defect, jejunoileal atresia, malrotation, anorectal malformation, and biliary atresia). It was assumed that the surgery in the 37 hospitals was performed by PS and that the surgery in other hospitals was performed by GS. Mortality was analyzed to compare the outcomes of acute abdominal surgery in the NICU. We estimated the number of PS currently needed in Korea for each situation under the assumption that PS would perform all operations for the index operation, main pediatric diseases (index operation + gastroesophageal reflux disease, choledochal cyst, inguinal hernia, and appendicitis), acute abdominal surgery in the NICU, and all pediatric surgeries. Additionally, we estimated the appropriate number of PS required for more advanced pediatric surgery in the future.

Results: The number of pediatric surgeries from 2002 to 2017 increased by 124%. Approximately 10.25% of the total pediatric surgeries were performed by PSs, and the percentage of the surgery performed by PSs increased from 8.32% in 2002 to 15.92% in 2017. The percentage of index operations performed by PSs annually was 62.44% in average. It was only 47.81% in 2002, and increased to 88.79% in 2017. During the last 5 years of the study period, the average annual number of surgeries for main pediatric diseases was approximately 33,228. The ratio of the number of surgeries performed by PS vs. GS steadily increased in main pediatric diseases, however, the ratio of the number of surgery performed by PS for inguinal hernia and appendicitis remained low in the most recent years. The percentage of the number of acute abdominal surgery performed by PS in the NICU was 44% in 2002, but it had recently risen to 89.7%. After 30 days of birth, mortality was significantly lower in all groups that were operated on by PS, rather than GS, during the last 5 years. In 2019, 49 PSs who were under the age of 65 years were actively working in Korea. Assuming that all pediatric surgeries of the patients under the age of 19 years should be performed by PS, the minimum number of PS currently required was about 63 if they perform all of the index operations, the main pediatric surgery was about 209, the NICU operation was about 63, and the all pediatric surgeries was about 366. Additionally, it was determined that approximately 165 to 206 PS will be appropriate for Korea to implement more advanced pediatric surgery in the future.

Conclusion: The proportion of the pediatric surgery performed by PS rather than GS is increasing in Korea, but it is still widely performed by GS. PSs have better operative outcomes for acute abdominal surgery in the NICU than GSs. We believe that at least the index operation or the NICU operation should be performed by PS for better outcome, and that a minimum of 63 PSs are needed in Korea to do so. In addition, approximately 200 PSs will be required in Korea in order to manage main pediatric diseases and to achieve more advanced pediatric surgery in the future.

Keywords: General Surgeon; Korea; Pediatric Surgeon; Pediatric Surgery; Workforce.

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