Fatigued surgeons in New Mexico may harm patients

Fatigue can cause surgeons to experience short-term memory impairment, irritability, indecisiveness and other consequences that could harm patients.

Surgical errors occur in operating rooms in New Mexico and throughout the rest of the country regularly. According to WebMD, surgeons make over 4,000 mistakes, often referred to as "never events," while performing operations on an annual basis. While there are many causes that can be attributed to these errors, surgeons often make mistakes because they are extremely fatigued.

Fatigue can lead to surgical errors

According to The Huffington Post, a study discovered that surgical residents function at approximately 80 percent of their full mental capacity nearly half of the time they are awake. Additionally, researchers found that the surgical residents who participated in this study were at approximately 70 percent mental effectiveness 30 percent of the time.

To come to this conclusion, researchers gave 27 orthopedic surgical residents watch-like devices that measured their sleep, activity and level of mental fatigue. Not only was the level of fatigue high among those who participated, but the residents got an average of five hours of sleep per day. Additionally, those who were assigned night rotations experienced higher levels of fatigue than those who worked day-shift rotations.

The effects of fatigue

Fatigued surgeons may experience consequences that are emotional, physical and mental in nature that affect their ability to prevent making surgical errors. According to Medical News Today, some of the possible signs and symptoms of fatigue include the following:

  • Dizziness, trouble with concentration and hallucinations
  • Indecisiveness, impaired judgment and moodiness
  • Vision problems, like drowsiness and slower-than-normal reflexes
  • Short-term memory impairment
  • Slow responses to stimuli in the surrounding environment

Additionally, surgeons who do not get enough sleep may experience impaired hand-eye coordination, headaches and a lack of motivation.

Hour restrictions may not improve patient care

While surgeons have limits on the number of hours they are allowed to continuously work, The Huffington Post states that residents have an 80-hour workweek limit and that medical professionals are not allowed to work for more than 24 hours at a time, some believe that these hour restrictions do not improve the level of care patients receive. For example, according to the Chicago Tribune, when a doctor caring for a particular patient leaves because he or she has exceeded his or her allotted work hours, care must be transferred to another team of professionals, increasing the risk that important tasks will be overlooked and test results will be forgotten.

Patients in New Mexico who do not receive proper care after undergoing an operation may experience consequences that harm them physically, financially and emotionally. If you were the victim of a surgical mistake, speak with an attorney to find out what you can do to protect your legal rights.

Keywords: surgical, error, medical malpractice