The time of day of surgery may have long-term impacts on the health of patients. Sleep deprivation is worryingly common among healthcare providers. Working tired leaves more room for mistakes – and mistakes in medicine are often dangerous.
“The basic take-home is that fatigue decreases safety,” said Bryan Vila, a sleep expert and emeritus professor of criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University Spokane.
Learning healthy sleeping practices is “just as important as occupational training,” Vila said.
Looking at how the circadian rhythm affects the outcomes of surgery, researchers in France are claiming that patients who undergo major heart surgery in the afternoon may walk away with reduced perioperative myocardial injury and postoperative morbidity compared to patients who were operated on earlier in the morning1.
While the study focuses on heart surgeries only, a separate Canadian study found that the risk of mortality was doubled in patients who were operated on during the night. It attributes this to healthcare provider fatigue during later times of the day. The same study put forth that not operating at all may be better than performing emergency procedures while fatigued.