Surgeons in training often work long hours and are not able to sleep as much as they would necessarily like. A new study indicates that this lack of rest may increase the number of dangerous surgical errors.
The authors of the study, recently published in the Archives of Surgery, polled orthopedic residents at two Boston-area hospitals. The residents reported that, on average, they got about five and a half hours of sleep each night. Researchers found that residents’ impairment due to fatigue during waking hours was the equivalent of being legally drunk about 25 percent of the time. Overall, the residents participating in the study were found to be functioning only at 70 percent of their mental effectiveness during 27 percent of the time they were awake.
It is difficult to draw a definitive conclusion from the study because only 27 residents participated. Researchers hope, however, that the information they have collected will help surgical departments to develop intervention plans to prevent fatigued surgeons from performing procedures. Doing so just may save lives.
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