Study reveals risks of fatigued surgeons

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A recent study published in the Archives of Surgery disclosed shocking statistics regarding fatigued surgical residents.  Researchers gave 27 orthopedic surgical residents watch-like instruments to measure both sleep and activity as well as mental fatigue.  The data obtained revealed that the average surgical resident functioned at less than 80 percent of their mental capacity nearly half of the time they were awake and functioned at less than 70 percent of their mental capacity nearly 30 percent of the time.

The surgical residents studied averaged 5 hours of sleep per day. Doctors working “night float” rotations had higher levels of fatigue than day shift doctors. “This study is the first to quantify resident surgeon fatigue and its predicted risk for error,” said Dr. Frank McCormick, the study co-author. “Fatigue levels were higher than anticipated, especially on the night float rotation.”

Dr. Jeffrey Rothschild, associate professor of medicine at Harvard University, authored a 2009 study that found an increased risk of surgical mistakes in procedures performed by physicians who had slept less than six hours due to an overnight or emergency procedure. “It’s been a concern for many years,” he said. Dr. Rothschild continued “What you’d like to be able to say to your surgeon in the morning is, ‘Did you get a good night’s rest?’ The question is, “What happens if the answer is that they didn’t? It’s a great question, and right now there’s no simple answer.”

For more information concerning risks and injuries arising from surgical errors, contact the Ohio medical malpractice attorneys at Clark, Perdue & List.

Source: Huffington Post, “Sleepy Surgeons: New Study Shines Light On Risks Of Surgeon Fatigue,” Catherine Pearson, May 21, 2012.