Are surgeons getting enough sleep before performing operations?

Anything could go wrong during surgery at any Chicago hospital. However, patients should never suffer complications or serious injuries during surgery because a doctor was too tired to perform the operation correctly and carefully.

According to a new study, sleep-deprivation is common amongst surgical residents. This is concerning because lack of sleep could affect one’s ability to pay attention to detail as well as the ability to make good decisions in high-stress situations. During surgery, sleep-deprivation could cause medical professionals and residents to make life-threatening surgical errors.

Doctors, specifically novice surgeons in training, are required to work long hours and may not get enough rest to function, even when completing major procedures. According to the study, the average resident gets 5.3 hours of sleep per day. Some residents got as little as 2.8 hours per day.

The study, which was conducted between 2010 and 2011, also showed that doctors with little sleep operate at about 70 percent of their normal mental capacity. That is comparable to being legally drunk, researchers pointed out. All of the doctors surveyed showed they were operating on about 70 percent of their mental effectiveness more than 25 percent of the time while they were awake. The study also found that nearly 50 percent of the time residents felt fatigued.

Resident surgeons who worked nights slept about 5.1 hours per day. Thirty-two percent of the time these doctors worked at less than 70 percent of their mental capacity. Those who worked during the day typically got a little more rest, which resulted in them working at less than 70 percent of their mental effectiveness only 17 percent of the time. This means that, according to the study, day shift doctors had a 19 percent chance of making a medical error and night shift doctors had a 24 percent chance of making a surgical error.

Based on the results of this study, hospitals in Illinois and throughout the country could do much more to ensure that their medical professionals are educated about the dangers of fatigue and to find ways to help doctors get the proper rest they need to provide quality care to their patients.

Source: Reuters, “Tired surgical residents may up error risk: study,” Andrew M. Seaman, May 21, 2012

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