Date: September 4, 2012
Case Scenario: A new anesthetist meets a new orthopedic colleague who jokes that his hand shake is very firm but can’t finish the cross word puzzle.

Question: Are orthopedic surgeons dumber and stronger than anesthetists?

Reference: Orthopedic surgeons: as strong as an ox and almost twice as clever? Multi-centre prospective comparative study. Subramanian et al. BMJ 2011

  • Populations: Male UK orthopedic surgeons
  • Intervention: Orthopedic surgery training
  • Control: Male UK anesthetist training
  • Outcome: Dominant grip strength and intelligent scores.

Key Results: 

Orthopedic surgeons significantly greater grip strength and intelligence compared to anesthetists.

  • Grip Strength: 47.25 (SD 6.95) kg vs. 42.83 (7.57) kg
  • Intelligence: 105.19 (10.85) vs 98.38 (14.45)

Authors’ Conclusions: “Male orthopedic surgeons have greater intelligence and grip strength than their male anesthetic colleagues, who should find new ways to make fun of their orthopedic friends.”

BEEM Comments:

  • What was good:
    • Well designed, prospective, comparative study.
    • Addresses important issue
    • good humerus article
  • What was not so good (limits):
    • Was it clinically relevant?
    • Representative of all ortho and anesthesia (women excluded)
    • no oxen included in the study (clinical relevance

BEEM Bottom Line: “The stereotypical image of male orthopedic surgeons as strong but stupid is unjustified in comparison with their male anaesthestist counterparts. The comedic repertoire of the average anaesthetist needs to be revised in the light of these data. However, we would recommend caution in making fun of orthopedic surgeons, as unwary anaesthetists may find themselves on the receiving end of a sharp and quick witted retort from their intellectually sharper friends or may be greeted with a crushing and shake at their next encounter.”

Remember to be skeptical of anything you learn, even if you heard it on the Skeptics’ Guide to Emergency Medicine.