Objective: To predict the impact of the aging population on the demand for surgical procedures. Summary Background Data: The population is expanding and aging. According to the US Census Bureau, the domestic population will increase 7.9% by 2010, and 17.0% by 2020. The fastest growing segment of this population consists of individuals over the age of 65; their numbers are expected to increase 13.3% by 2010 and 53.2% by 2020. Methods: Data on the age-specific rates of surgical procedures were obtained from the 1996 National Hospital Discharge Survey and the National Survey of Ambulatory Surgery. These procedure rates were combined with corresponding relative value units from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The result quantifies the amount of surgical work used by an average individual within specific age groups (<15 years old, 15-44 years old, 45-64 years old, 65+ years old). This estimate of work per capita was combined with population forecasts to predict future use of surgical services. Results: Based on the assumption that age-specific per capita use of surgical services will remain constant, we predict significant increases (14-47%) in the amount of work in all surgical fields. These increases vary widely by specialty. Conclusions: The aging of the US population will result in significant growth in the demand for surgical services. Surgeons need to develop strategies to manage an increased workload without sacrificing quality of care.
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