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December 11, 2017

Does surgical start time affect risks for medical errors?

A new study finds that patients who undergo a neurosurgical procedure between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. face a higher risk of complications compared to those who get operated on earlier in the day.

The findings were published in Neurosurgery, which reported on a study that included 15,807 patients in the University of Michigan Health System. Of those patients, 785 complications were identified through the self-reported morbidity and mortality reports created by faculty and resident neurosurgeons. “Morbidity” describes poor health or a diseased state and “mortality” refers to the death of a patient.

Previous studies have found that patients who undergo a variety of surgeries later in the day – for example, colorectal, transplants and coronary angioplasty – are at a higher risk of complications. The article in Neurosurgery states that this is the first study to link complications to neurosurgical procedures performed at night. Neurosurgeons perform hundreds of different types of procedures to treat nervous system diseases, including brain surgery.

Are surgeons more prone to make errors late at night?

The study finds that – as expected – most elective surgeries are performed earlier in the day. Many emergency surgeries are performed between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Those patients tend to be sicker than patients who schedule elective surgeries earlier in the day.

But researchers found that complications increased significantly between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. even after accounting for the disproportionate number of emergency surgeries and elective procedures.

While the Neurosurgery article does not address questions of whether a sleepy doctor or nurse may be prone to surgical mistakesearlier studies link fatigue among medical staff to medical errors and an increased death risk.

The lead author of the Neurosurgery study, Aditya Pandey, said the new research has raised questions that need to be addressed in the medical community. “We need to continue to study this relationship as we aim to minimize surgery related complications,” Pandey said, according to an article in ScienceDaily.

Pandey stated that medical professionals may need to stabilize a patient who needs a late-night surgery so that the procedure can be performed during day hours. Hospitals may need to consider adding more surgical teams and increasing the number of operating rooms to allow for more daytime surgeries.

At Deratany & Kosner, we agree that this study raises serious questions that must be addressed. Patients who undergo surgical procedures deserve the best treatment possible. Patients and their families should not have to worry about whether the time of their surgery will affect their outcome.

As experienced medical malpractice lawyers in Chicago, we have fought aggressively on behalf of our clients. If you or a loved one was harmed due to a surgical procedure, contact us for a free and confidential consultation. Let us know what happened to you so we can help you pursue the justice you deserve.

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