Study: Sleep deprivation does not affect surgeon performance

A new Ontario, Canada study is discordant with other research that suggests surgeons running on little sleep are a safety hazard for patients, according to Reuters.

The new study shows the chances of a surgery-related problem occurring were actually 0.2 percent less when the physician had treated patients overnight (22.2 percent) than when physicians had not (22.4 percent), according to the report.

Researchers looked at 39,000 cases performed in a five-year period by nearly 1,500 surgeons at 147 hospitals in Ontario, Canada. They used a billing code database to track whether or not surgeons had worked the night before operations and then followed the outcomes of these cases, according to the report.

The study found the following results:

  • Mortality rates were 1.1 percent whether or not surgeons had worked overnight before the operations, between 12 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Readmission rates were 6.6 percent if the surgeon worked early morning hours.
  • Readmission rates were 7.1 percent if the surgeon was not working overnight.
  • The overnight workers recorded an 18.1 percent 30-day complication rate.
  • The workers who did not work overnight recorded an 18.2 percent 30-day complication rate.

The researchers found this data to be consistent regardless of hospital type, physician age and type of operation, according to the report.

However, some physicians have taken issue with the methods used in the study. One such physician, Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, chief of the sleep and circadian disorders division at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital, told Reuters the issue is the study didn't measure the actual amount of sleep the physicians got each night. He performed a related study, which was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, that found complication rates skyrocketed 170 percent when surgeons had less than six hours of sleep a night, compared to those who got more than six hours, according to the report.

The senior author of the study, Nancy Baxter, MD, chief of the general surgery division at Toronto, Canada-based St. Michael's Hospital, defended the research in that it was more extensive than the JAMA study, which took place in one institution. She warned the findings of her study do not suggest surgeons should work without sufficient rest, but they do show patients do not need to worry if their surgeon was up working the night before an operation, according to the report.


More articles on integration and physician issues:

North Shore-LIJ joins handful of systems posting star ratings of physicians
10 medical schools that interview the most minority applicants
UA-Phoenix medical school faces accreditation issues

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