Any Day OK for Heart Bypass Surgery

WEDNESDAY Sept. 23, 2009 -- There's no bad time of the day, week or year to have elective coronary artery bypass surgery, say researchers who analyzed how 18,597 people fared after having the procedure.

The Cleveland Clinic team conducted the study to determine whether working off-hours and long shifts might affect the performance of surgeons and other medical staff. Other studies have shown that lack of sleep, prolonged work hours and natural body-rhythm disturbances reduce the performance of drivers and pilots.

"We started the study believing that timing was likely to influence outcome," senior investigator Dr. Allen Bashour said in a news release from the American Society of Anesthesiologists. "If so, hospitals could intervene with precautions to improve patient safety during high-risk periods."

The researchers also looked at the phases of the moon because it's widely believed that a full moon can increase the number of accidents and emergency room visits.

"However, our results showed that serious complications were rare and that the timing of elective surgery did not influence the outcome," Bashour said.

Coronary artery bypass graft surgery was studied because it's the most common heart surgery and because there are well-established protocols for the surgery, the researchers said.

Overall, people in the study had a 4.8 percent major complication rate and a 1.4 percent death rate. The rates were similar for each weekday and each month, and for each phase of the moon, according to the study.

"The study found that elective coronary artery bypass surgery can be scheduled anytime throughout the workday, any day of the week, and in any month of the year with equally good outcomes," Dr. Daniel I. Sessler, chairman of the Department of Outcomes Research at the Cleveland Clinic and a researcher on the study, said in the news release.

"Our results also suggest that the supposed effect of moon phase on medical complications is merely an urban legend," he said.

The study is in the October issue of Anesthesiology.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

Posted: September 2009


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