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Study finds surgeons' performances not affected by lack of sleep

New York patients may feel a bit better heading into surgery after an Ontario study found that insufficient sleep did not affect surgeons' performances the following day. The lead author of the study argued that the results indicated that it was not necessary to inform patients that they were sleep-deprived.

The sleep-deprivation study was released in The New England Journal of Medicine. Ontario researchers looked at approximately 39,000 cases involving more than 1,440 surgeons in exactly 147 hospitals. They discovered that, according to the data, there was a 1.1 percent chance of death within 30 days following a procedure regardless if the surgeon had worked early morning hours prior to the surgery. If the surgeon had stayed up late, the readmission rate was 6.6 percent. The rate for readmission was 7.1 percent if the doctor had not stayed up late.

However, there were a few problems with the study. Determining if a doctor worked overnight did not necessarily indicate if they were sleep-deprived as they could have come into the office at a later time the next morning. Additionally, the study assumed that doctors who worked between 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. were sleep-deprived; however, some surgeons often began working before seven.

Surgical errors can occur even when the doctor is not sleep-deprived. In some cases, the doctor may operate on the wrong body part or may leave a foreign object in the body following surgery. If this caused the patient harm, then a lawyer may be able to help file a medical malpractice claim against the doctor involved in the surgery and the hospital where the procedure took place. Depending on the circumstances, the injured patient may seek compensation for such damages as lost income, pain and suffering, and the cost of additional treatment.

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