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Study reveals effect of sleep deprivation on surgeons

Over the years, there has been a lot of research done on the effects of sleep deprivation. It has been shown to slow down reflexes, impair judgment and cause a person to be more forgetful. The question regarding sleep deprivation that researchers set out to answer this time around: “Are surgeons more likely to make surgical errors when they don’t get a full night’s rest?”


You might be surprised to learn that the answer is “no.” Sleep deprivation tends to affect mundane tasks the most. Surgery does not fall into this category; no two surgeries are alike. According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association doctors who performed gallbladder surgery—the most common surgery that general surgeons perform and, therefore, the closest to being considered mundane—after being on call or performing emergency surgery overnight were no more likely to make a mistake than those who got a full night’s sleep. The error percentage was essentially nonexistent—less than one percent. A possible theory behind the results of the study is that most surgeons know when they are too tired perform a surgery and will reschedule it.

Not all doctors in Pittsburgh have the same discipline when it comes to self-regulation, however. If you have suffered a serious injury, sustained organ damage or a worsened condition because of a surgical error, you may want to speak with an attorney about filing a lawsuit. If it can be proven that the surgeon mistake was due to a lack of sleep or some other form of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.

Source: Newsday, “Tired Surgeons May Not Be Error-Prone,” Amy Norton, Nov. 5, 2013.

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