SAN FRANCISCO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Two surgeons working in tandem, one on each side of the patient, can significantly reduce the total operative time for bilateral mastectomies without compromising safety or quality of results, according to a study presented at the 2015 ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium.

A review of records on consecutive cases of bilateral mastectomy with tissue expander reconstruction (BMTR) showed that mean overall surgery time (start of incision to closure) was about 23 minutes shorter when two surgeons were working at once, and mean general surgery time (start of incision to end of mastectomy procedure) was 41 minutes shorter with two surgeons vs. a solo operator, reported Dr. Suniti Nimbkar of the department of surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

“We did find that there was a significant reduction in time when two surgeons work together, and that reduction is particularly emphasized when you have a patient who is larger, perhaps a heavier patient, and when you have to do more extensive surgery,” she said in an interview at the symposium.

Dual surgeons did take slightly longer to perform the reconstructive surgery portion of the procedure, however.

Effective cosurgery is like a healthy marriage or a successful restaurant kitchen, with partners learning how to anticipate each other’s needs, knowing when to lend a hand, and intuitively grasping when to get out of the way, Dr. Nimbkar suggested.

“As two surgeons work together more and more, they just inevitably grow together in how they operate. I know for example that my direct partner and I operate very similarly, whereas sometimes if I do a cosurgery with a second surgeon that I don’t always operate with we have to work together to understand each other’s approach,” she said.

The investigators scanned the charts of 116 consecutive women who underwent BMTR done by eight breast surgeons at their center, looking for potential differences in operative time and 30-day postoperative complications. In all, 67 of the procedures were cosurgeries, and 49 were done by a single surgeon.

They found that in bivariate analysis, mean general surgery time was 75.8 minutes for the surgical duos, compared with 116.8 minutes for the solo surgeons (P less than .0001). Overall surgery time was also shorter, at 255.2 minutes vs. 278.3 minutes, respectively (P = .005).

Although there were numerically more complications among patients of cosurgeons, there was no statistically significant difference in postoperative complications rates between the twin and singleton surgeons.

A linear regression model showed that factors significantly associated with general surgery time were cosurgeries (P less than .0001), total breast weight (P =.03) and axillary dissection (P = .0003).

The authors noted that although two surgeons cut operative times significantly, the amount of time savings was not proportional to what they expected.

“We also want to know if the plastic surgeons are happy with the results if there are two different surgeons. Do they feel that there is too much of a difference in the way the mastectomy comes out, or is it something they’re fine with? So one of the next steps we’re going to take is to survey the plastic surgeons as to whether they’re comfortable with what we’re doing or if they have ideas about how we can be more uniform,” Dr. Nimbkar said.