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Don't Schedule Your Operation on Your Surgeon's Birthday

THURSDAY, Dec. 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- If you have a choice, you might want to avoid having an operation on your surgeon's birthday.

A new study finds that seniors who have emergency surgery on their surgeon's birthday have a much higher risk of dying in the following weeks.

Researchers analyzed data on nearly 981,000 emergency surgeries performed on Medicare beneficiaries by about 48,000 surgeons between 2011 and 2014. The analysis included 17 different types of surgery.

Of those operations, 0.2% occurred on the surgeons' birthdays.

In the 30 days after surgery, death rates were 6.9% among patients whose procedures were performed on their surgeons' birthdays and 5.6% among other patients, a difference of about 23%.

Surgeons may be more distracted on their birthdays than on other days, but further research is needed to learn more about this issue, according to the authors of the study, published Dec. 10 in the journal BMJ.

"Our study was the first to show the association between a surgeons' birthday and patient mortality, but further research is needed before we make a conclusion that birthdays indeed have a meaningful impact on surgeons' performance," said researcher Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

"But at this point, given that evidence is still limited, I don't think patients need to avoid a surgical procedure on the surgeon's birthday," Tsugawa said in a university news release.

The study had a number of limitations, the researchers noted.

They weren't able to identify the mechanisms that led to a higher death rate among patients who had their operations on their surgeons' birthday, so it wasn't possible to prove a causal link between surgeons' birthdays and patient deaths.

Also, the study was limited to older patients and the findings may not apply to younger patients or those having elective surgery.

More information

The American Society of Anesthesiologists explains how to prepare for surgery.

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, Dec. 10, 2020

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