How do you handle a hangover? Maybe you chase a Goody’s powder with some coffee, and try to avoid interaction the boss and co-workers for as long as possible. Most likely you avoid any work that requires intense concentration, at least until mid-day when the nausea and the throbbing in your head subside.
Now imagine you are a surgeon, or even better the patient who is about to be cut open, rearranged, and put back together. Next time you are preparing for surgery maybe you should ask your doctor what he did the night before? A recent study has shown that surgeons are more likely to make mistakes during a surgery if they are hung-over, even if there is no detectable alcohol in their system.
Adding to the concern is the fact that alcohol consumption is very common among medical professionals. Being a surgeon is a very stressful job, and historically the medical profession is known to have a high level of alcohol consumption. A study conducted by Yale University showed that alcohol is the most common addictive substance among medical professionals. There is also a significantly higher rate of alcohol us among surgeons than any other medical workers.
Researchers in the UK decided to develop a study to get an idea of the extent that a surgeon is impaired by the after-effects of alcohol consumption. The researchers invited out eight surgeons and 16 medical students for a night on the town, and encouraged them to drink as much as possible. The next morning they were asked to perform a “camera-guided” surgery through a virtual reality system. This system mimics laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). The hung-over students and surgeons made twice the mistakes of the people who had not consumed any alcohol the night before. This variance in mistakes faded as the day progressed.
Alcohol is not the only concern when it comes to impairment during surgery. Sleep-deprivation is a common problem found with surgeons, especially those working in emergency services. A lack of sleep has actually been found to cause more surgical errors than those of a hang-over.
Should some sort of regulation be put in place to restrict surgeons from drinking the night before a surgery?