study lack of sleep doesnt necessarily affect surgeons ii

Last time, we started discussing how a group of Canadian researchers recently published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine examining the impact of sleep deprivation on surgical performance and how its findings are contrary to those made in what is now considered a landmark 2009 study by American researchers.

In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at these findings and why they are generating considerable discussion in medical circles. 

To recap, researchers from the University of Toronto created a pool of almost 39,000 surgical procedures performed by 1,448 experienced surgeons at 147 hospitals across Ontario over five years.

They then identified those scenarios where a surgeon performed a late night procedure and then performed another surgery the following day, essentially splitting the study pool into an overnight group (surgeries performed between midnight and 7 a.m.) and a daytime group (surgeries performed between 7 a.m. and midnight).

After comparing the two data sets, they made the following findings:

  • Odds of surgery-related complications developing were 18.1 percent for the overnight group versus 18.2 percent for the daytime group 30 days after surgery.
  • Odds of death resulting from surgery-related complications were 1.1 percent for both the overnight group and the daytime group 30 days after surgery.
  • Average time spent in the hospital post-surgery for both the overnight group and the daytime group was three days or less.
  • Rates of readmission were 6.6 percent for the overnight group and 7.1 percent for the daytime group 30 days after surgery.

According to the authors, the study shows growing calls for surgeons to inform patients when they are behind on sleep are perhaps both misguided and unnecessary. As for the findings themselves, they attribute the similarity in numbers to the fact most surgeons are experienced, understand how to pace themselves and know how to manage a sleep deficit if necessary.

It’s worth noting, however, the study is not without its critics, including the researchers at Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital who conducted the aforementioned groundbreaking study roughly six years ago. Here, their primary criticism is the new study fails to account for the actual amount of sleep the surgeons got between the late night procedure and the procedure the following day.

What are your thoughts on this study? Would you want your surgeon to tell you if they hadn’t slept for more than a few hours? Would you want them to reschedule the procedure if they didn’t feel comfortable?

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