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Surgeons Make More Mistakes if Drunk
Sat - April 23, 2011 11:40 am  |  Article Hits:5777  |  A+ | a-
The mistake rate in the operating room due to a hangover appeared to peak around lunchtime, based on the research, published within the April issue of Archives of Surgery. The content appears obvious: "Surgeons along with other [medical personnel] shouldn't drink excessively the night before operating," said the study's first author, Tony Gallagher, a professor of human factors at the School of Medicine at University College Cork in Cork. "The meaning of excessively is an issue that should be based on the surgical profession." Actually, with the challenges resulting from modern image-guided surgical techniques, "abstinence from alcohol the night time before operating may be a sensible consideration for practicing surgeons," the research authors concluded.

Unlike airline pilots, who may have had to follow along with a "bottle-to-throttle" mandate restricting drinking before flights since 1971, surgeons have no "bottle-to-scalpel" rule. No airline pilots can fly should they have consumed alcohol 8 hours before takeoff or if their blood alcohol is 0.04 or more, based on federal regulations, and pilots are encouraged not to drink at the previous day flying. But in this sort of profession, "doctors are expected to be substance-free all the time at work, but there's no real rule of [drinking alcohol beyond work hours]," said Dr. Albert Wu, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

"If their findings are replicated, it would reasonable to [restrict] drinking 'x' hours before assuming duty." The Irish researchers centered on minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, which, they noted, makes particularly high demands on the surgeon's cognitive and perceptual abilities. The researchers actually performed two studies. Within the first, 16 college science students with beginning laparoscopic skills were told either to not consume alcohol the evening before a simulated surgery or to drink till these were drunk. SOURCES: Anthony G. Gallagher Ph.D., experimental psychologist and professor of human factors, School of drugs, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland; Albert W. Wu, M.D., professor of health policy and management, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore; April 2011 Archives of Surgery
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