study raises questions about weekend effect and pediatric patients

While it goes without saying that there is no such thing as a 100 percent risk-free surgery, there are certain procedures that the medical community views as inherently safe and relatively simple to perform. For instance, some of these surgeries include hernia treatments, appendix removals, bone fracture repairs, draining/cleaning of infected wounds, and even procedures to remove excess fluid on the brain.

Interestingly, these five procedures were at the center of a recently published study performed by researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center examining whether there was such a thing as a “weekend effect” when it came to pediatric patients.

In other words, the researchers sought to determine whether the rate of fatalities or complications was higher among children who underwent one of these five procedures over the weekend as opposed to the regular workweek.

As part of their study, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, the researchers combed thorough 22 years worth of national pediatric patient data. Specifically, they compared the rates of fatalities and complications among roughly 112,000 pediatric patients who underwent one of the above-mentioned procedures during the weekend with roughly 327,000 pediatric patents who underwent one of the above-mentioned procedures during the week.

They actually found that those pediatric patients who underwent these procedures on the weekend were 40 percent more likely to experience complications and, even more shocking, 63 percent more likely to die.

While this latter figure is indeed shocking, the researchers were quick to point out that the actual number of pediatric patient fatalities was quite small (reaching only 30 in the 22 years examined), and that the results clearly showed further research into a potential weekend effect was needed.

“Numerically speaking, the number of deaths was quite small, but even a single preventable death is one too many,” said one of the primary authors. “This demands that we examine any factors that may cause or contribute to such occurrences and find ways to prevent them.”

While the study stopped short of examining why there may be a potential weekend effect present in relation to these supposedly simple surgical procedures, the researchers did theorize that delayed response times, lower staffing levels and the limited availability of lab tests/imagining may play a role.

As these study authors point out, any death is absolutely unacceptable when it comes to pediatric surgery. In fact, it is now incumbent upon hospitals to take note of this study and introduce the necessary safeguards.

If you’ve suffered irreparable harm or experienced the unimaginable loss of a loved one due to a surgical error or another form of what you believe was medical malpractice, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, “Weekend emergency surgeries deadlier for children,” July 2, 2014  

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