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Regret After Gender-Affirming Surgery Is Largely a Myth, Experts Say
  • Posted January 2, 2024

Regret After Gender-Affirming Surgery Is Largely a Myth, Experts Say

Despite a common belief in the medical community and elsewhere, the vast majority of people who undergo gender-affirming surgery do not regret it later.

In all, less than 1% of people who underwent gender-affirming surgery said they wished they hadn't done it, a new review of the data showed.

That's far lower than rates of regret about any kind of surgery among cisgender people (people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth), the researchers noted.

The three Johns Hopkins researchers are urging health care workers to change their thinking when it comes to treating transgender patients. It is scientifically unsupported, they wrote in a viewpoint article published recently in the journal JAMA Surgery.

Led by Harry Barbee, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, the team reviewed medical literature on post-surgery regret.

They said differences in levels of regret between cisgender people and those who are transgender or gender-diverse (TGD) may owe to the reasons each group has for undergoing surgery. For example, they cited gender alignment versus something like cancer treatment.

Lower levels of regret among transgender people may also owe to the fact that they are required to show beforehand that their biological sex and gender identity do not match, the Hopkins group said.

But, the team said, accurately evaluating patient satisfaction and regret after surgery remains challenging.

They said patients should be asked about it no sooner than a year after surgery and that potential influences on regret, such as age, race, education level and quality of life, should be considered. Better study of post-surgery regret could help improve public policy and the long-term health of transgender or gender-diverse people, they added.

Co-writers of the viewpoint article were Dr. Bashar Hassan, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender and Gender Expansive Health, and Dr. Fan Liang, medical director of the center.

More information

There's more about gender affirmation surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Dec. 27, 2023

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