Surgeons who don’t get six hours of sleep per night risk failing their procedures and causing ongoing complications in patients, says new research from Harvard University. The investigation, the results of which appear in the October issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that there was an almost three-fold risk of surgical complications in operations carried out when surgeons have not had six hours of sleep during the prior night.
The study involved information from 919 surgical and 957 obstetrical procedures from the day after a doctor had worked at night, and cross-referenced against 3552 surgical and 3945 obstetrical procedures carried out when the doctor hadn’t worked the previous night.
The research echoes several previous studies into sleep quality effects among medical professionals, but is the first time that the issue has been addressed at surgeon levels.
“Attending surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists, like resident physicians and nurses, are vulnerable to the effects of fatigue and extended work shifts on performance and patient care,” said Dr. Jeffrey M. Rothschild, lead researcher on the study. “The risk of performing post-nighttime cases without sufficient rest may be especially important in hospitals without backup support or house staff physicians to assist a fatigued attending physician.”
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