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VOLUME 54 | NUMBER 3 | JUNE 2019

Physician age and the abandonment of episiotomy

Objective: To determine whether women treated by older physicians are more likely to undergo episiotomy.

Data Sources/Study Setting: Hospital discharge data from Pennsylvania for the period 1994 to 2010.

Study Design: We examined the impact of the year in which physicians started delivering babies (a proxy for age) in Pennsylvania on episiotomy rates using a linear probability model with hospital fixed effects.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Using diagnosis and procedure codes, we identified women delivering vaginally (N = 1 658 327) and determined the proportion who had an episiotomy.

Principal Findings: The average physicianlevel episiotomy rate declined from 54 percent in 1994 to 13 percent in 2010. Rates declined among older and younger physicians, but, at any point in time, women treated by older physicians were more likely to have an episiotomy. A 10year difference in physician age is associated with a 6 percentage point increase in episiotomy rates.

Conclusions: Results indicate that older physicians, who entered practice when episiotomy was common, were slow to adjust their practices in response to evidence showing that routine episiotomy is unnecessary.

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