Medical Errors and Surgeon Sleep Deprivation

You’re going in for elective surgery and following all the pre-operative procedures. You make sure everything is in place. You have your diet, your travel plans, even your post-operative needs covered. One last thing you’ve probably neglected-is your surgeon sleep deprived? It’s a question that most overlook and don’t consider prior to undergoing elective surgery. Yet, it’s an important question given that there’s an 83% risk in an increased risk of complications in patients who undergo elective daytime surgical procedures performed by attending surgeons who had less than a 6-hour opportunity for sleep between procedures during a previous on-call night. That figure has been published in December 2010’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The three authors, all of whom hold MD degrees, raise the question whether patients have the right to know if their surgeons have had a sufficient amount of rest prior to their surgery. It’s a legitimate question that is not asked because of the economic consequences. Yet, medical errors occur at an alarmingly high rate when surgeons are sleep deprived. It’s worth looking into, don’t you think?