Fatigue common among surgical residents, study says

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 28, 2012

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Surgical residents often feel tired, placing them at higher risk of committing medical errors, says a study in the May Archives of Surgery.

Researchers studied 27 orthopedic surgery residents for two weeks, monitoring their sleep patterns and alertness with a daily questionnaire and actigraphy, which measures motor activity. The residents had an average of 5.3 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. While awake, they felt fatigued 48% of the time and were considered impaired by exhaustion 27% of that time, the study said (link).

It’s estimated that lack of sleep increased by 22% the risk of a medical error by the residents, with those risks higher among residents who worked at night.

“We found that resident fatigue was prevalent, pervasive and variable and accounted for an increased risk of medical error across the program,” the study said.

Academic medical centers should work to identify times during which residents are at most risk of committing medical errors and develop interventions to help reduce that risk, the study said.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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