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Afternoon surgeries could be hazardous to your health

Duke University published an in depth study in 2006 in the Quality and Safety in Healthcare journal. The research found that surgeries begun between 3 and 4 PM displayed an alarmingly high rate of patient "nausea, vomiting and postoperative pain." The reasons for this troubling statistic are elusive, but could include the following factors, according to an assistant professor of surgery at the Oakland University/William Beaumont School of Medicine (Michigan).

Surgical errors in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. may be more prevalent during this time period because of natural human factors. Consider the following items.

Human bodies have natural "circadian rhythms." These control our sleep and awakened cycles and our brain wave activity levels. These rhythms "dip" between 3 and 5 PM daily, causing humans to become sleepy. While some jobs allow humans to relax or nap, particularly in Western Europe where mid-afternoon "siestas" are accepted, operating rooms do not encourage doctor or nurse napping.

Most surgical teams begin their days by–or before–7 AM. Team members have already completed eight hours in the OR by 3 PM. They are tired. Sometimes, during surgery, teams will change, replaced by fresh personnel. Hopefully, the team that began the operation will clearly transmit all information to the new team members. While this procedure is seldom life-threatening, original anesthetists or nurses may "forget" to inform their replacements about all patient "quirks."

While your surgeon should never be exchanged, regardless of the time of day, nurses and technicians often change, getting "handoffs" from the original surgical team. Therefore, a complete and clear information exchange can be vital to patient comfort.

Because humans are not perfect, some information may be missed. Should your surgeon give you choices about a time for your operation, including the 3 to 4 PM slot, consider your options carefully. Choose the earliest time to avoid any undue hazards.

Have you ever had a surgical procedure during mid-afternoon? If yes, was it a successful experience? Will you consider choosing early morning for surgery in the future if given the option?

Source: CNN, "Why you should avoid afternoon surgery," Dr. Anthony Youn, Nov. 27, 2012

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