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Physician fatigue and surgical errors in Pennsylvania

A recent study led by a researcher at the University of Toronto indicates that just because a doctor worked the previous night, it does not mean that the physician is more likely to make a surgical error. The study was published in the The New England Journal of Medicine, and it involved almost 39,000 cases and just shy of 1,500 surgeons over a five-year period.

Researchers looked at 12 different types of procedures, and a billing code database told them if a physician had worked the previous night between the hours of 12 a.m. and 7 a.m. They found that the odds of death for a patient was 1.1 percent, irrespective of if a doctor had or had not worked the night before. Complication and readmission rates for doctors who had and had not been on shift the previous night were also within 1 percent of another.

According to a physician who was not connected to the study, there are some indications that it may not be complete. Although the billing code database told researchers when a physician worked, it did not indicate how much sleep they had the night before. In an earlier study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009, it was stated that surgical errors are 300 percent more likely when a doctor is performing an operation while fatigued.

When a doctor makes a mistake during an operation, a patient is likely to suffer. A surgical error may cause someone's current condition to worsen or may cause a new medical condition to develop. This can lead to longer stays in the hospital, larger medical bills and, in some cases, death. Those who have been affected by this type of medical negligence may want to speak with an attorney in order to determine the remedies that may be available.

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