Working overnights by physicians not linked to significantly increased risk of complications

Oct 13, 2009

Attending surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists who worked nighttime hours did not have a significantly greater rate of complications for procedures performed the next day, but having less than six hours of opportunity for sleep between procedures was associated with an increased rate of surgical complications, according to a study in the October 14 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on surgical care.

Jeffrey M. Rothschild, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, presented the findings of the study at a JAMA media briefing in Chicago.

There has been increasing public attention on the role of resident physicians' in the occurrence of . In 2003, work hour limits were implemented for resident physicians in the U.S. Work hours of attending physicians are not restricted. "Little is known about the frequency of elective surgical and obstetrical/gynecologic procedures by attending physicians who participate in emergency procedures the night before. Even less is known about the risks of complications during these postnighttime procedures," according to background information in the article.

Dr. Rothschild and colleagues examined the relationship between nighttime work hours, , and rates of complications in procedures performed the next day. The researchers analyzed data on procedures performed from January 1999 through June 2008 by attending physicians (86 surgeons and 134 obstetricians/gynecologists) who had been in the hospital performing another procedure involving adult patients for at least part of the preceding night (12 a.m.- 6 a.m., postnighttime procedures). A total of 919 surgical and 957 obstetrical postnighttime procedures were matched with 3,552 and 3,945 control procedures, respectively. Control procedures included those of the same type performed by the same physician on days without preceding overnight procedures.

The researchers found that complications occurred in 101 postnighttime procedures (5.4 percent) and 365 control procedures (4.9 percent). There was no difference detected in types of complications between postnighttime and control procedures. The most common surgical complications were organ injuries and bleeding.

"Among postnighttime cases, a higher rate of procedural complications occurred when there were 6 or fewer hours of sleep opportunity (6.2 percent) compared with postnighttime procedures in which there were more than 6 hours of sleep opportunity (3.4 percent); this was predominantly due to operating room (surgical) complications (8.5 percent vs. 3.1 percent, respectively). Postnighttime procedures performed when work duration exceeded 12 hours showed nonsignificantly higher complication rates compared with shifts of 12 hours or less (6.5 percent vs. 4.3 percent)," the researchers write. "These data suggest that attending physicians, like residents and nurses, may be at increased risk of making errors when sleep deprived or working extended shifts."

"Our data suggest that the business as usual of a 'limitless work week' for attending physicians is not optimal for patient care," they add. The authors offer several initiatives that could lessen the risks of unsafe levels of fatigue during procedures, including having large physician groups avoid scheduling elective procedures following overnight on-call responsibilities; implementing a culture of teamwork and critical redesign of schedules; and, when possible, having adequate backup personnel available to relieve fatigued physicians.

"For situations in which it is necessary for attending physicians to conduct life-saving procedures following overnight work, effective strategies to minimize the effects of fatigue should be adopted into practice," the authors conclude.

More information: JAMA. 2009;302[14]:1565-1572

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals (news : web)

Explore further: Continued reliance on Windows XP in physician practices may threaten data security

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Firm targets 3D printing synthetic tissues, organs

(Medical Xpress)—A University of Oxford spin-out, OxSyBio, will develop 3D printing techniques to produce tissue-like synthetic materials for wound healing and drug delivery. In the longer term the company ...

Survival hope for melanoma patients thanks to new vaccine

(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that a new trial vaccine offers the most promising treatment to date for melanoma that has spread, with increased patient survival rates and improved ability ...

Naps help infants learn

Sleep is essential in helping young children apply what they learn, according to new research by Rebecca Gómez, associate professor in the UA Department of Psychology. In this Q&A, she talks about her new ...

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...