CHICAGO — Surgeons who are rude to patients and others may pose a problem in the operating room, according to a study linking unprofessional doctor behavior with infections and other surgery complications.

The researchers say their results show why it’s important to speak up when doctors behave badly.

Complications were most common in patients whose surgeons had received lots of earlier complaints about their behavior, researchers found. The complaints were typically unsolicited phone calls to hospitals from unhappy patients or their relatives.

Post-surgery problems were 14 percent more common in patients whose surgeons had at least 14 complaints in the last two years, compared with patients whose doctors received few or no complaints.

Some examples:

 A man reported getting this response when asking about his wife’s upcoming surgery: ”Look, your wife will die without this procedure. If you want to ask questions instead of allowing me to do my job, I can just go home and not do it.”

 A caller reported seeing a doctor berate a nurse. “It was difficult to watch someone try to humiliate another person like that. I was embarrassed and it made me feel vulnerable.”

These reports are sometimes gathered as part of a hospital’s bid to improve the quality of its care. They’re shared with doctors but typically not with patients, so it could be tough to find out in advance if your surgeon has had lots of complaints. But previous research has shown that sharing negative feedback with doctors can result in better behavior, fewer subsequent complaints, and fewer malpractice claims, said lead author Dr. William Cooper of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy.

The results were published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery.