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Are fatigued surgeons more likely to make errors?

Medical professionals are obligated to provide their patients with quality care. Patients and families in New York City trust that doctors and surgeons are doing whatever they can to prevent errors. However, a new study suggests that fatigue may impact how a surgeon performs.

Researchers studied orthopedic surgical residents and found that most of them were getting around five and a half hours of sleep. Many of them were so tired during the day that their impairment level was the same as a person who is legally drunk, making them more likely to make a surgical mistake.

Researchers studied 27 different surgical residents at two different hospitals in nearby Boston. In addition to how much sleep they were getting, researchers asked the residents about the amount of exercise they get and their use of sedatives, alcohol and stimulants.

After analyzing the residents for two weeks, researchers found that their level of fatigue made them 22 percent more likely to make a mistake compared to doctors who are less fatigued.

The study was small, but it illustrates a major problem among medical professionals. When patients have surgery, they assume their doctor is well prepared, knowledgeable and certainly not impaired. Although surgery has inherent risks, if a surgeon is fatigued, they put their patients at risk of suffering further complications or even death.

Medical malpractice is very serious. People in New York City who believe they may be a victim of medical malpractice would be wise to talk with an experienced attorney. An attorney can investigate the case and fight to get people the compensation they deserve.

Source: Fox News, "Tired surgical residents may up error risk, study suggests," May 22, 2012

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