Does weekend emergency surgery impact patient death risk?

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Emergency surgery outcomes did not change in accordance with days of the week, a new study published in the British Journal of Surgery found.

Researchers investigated more than 50,000 emergency surgery cases in Scotland between 2005 and 2007. They tracked outcomes through 2012.

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The study shows that the day a patient underwent surgery had no effect on their short- or long-term survival, after adjusting for other risk factors. In fact, patients were more likely to undergo surgery sooner if they were admitted over the weekend.

Previous research — such as a 2013 BMJ study — has shown that for elective procedures, the mortality risk on Fridays was 44 percent higher than on Mondays.

However, a 2016 study published in CMAJ found that while surgeon experience varied from day to day, the risk of death did not increase for patients undergoing an elective procedure on Fridays.

"Emergency surgery is associated with far greater risks than elective surgery so it is reassuring to find that patients in Scotland are receiving the same high standards of care throughout the week," said Dr. Michael Gillies, a consultant and associate medical director in University of Edinburgh's department of anesthesia, critical care and pain medicine.

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