Acute sleep deprivation in the thoracic surgical resident does not affect operative outcomes

Peter I. Ellman, Irving L. Kron, Jeffrey S. Alvis, Carlos Tache-Leon, Thomas S. Maxey, T. Brett Reece, Benjamin B. Peeler, John A. Kern, Curtis G. Tribble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Background. There is an increasing trend toward work hour restrictions for doctors world wide. These reforms have been inspired, in part, by the assertion by some that the fatigued physician is more prone to making errors. Interestingly, there is very little in the way of objective data with regard to the effects of sleep deprivation on patient outcomes. We have recently studied this in attending surgeons. The present study focused on thoracic surgical residents. Our hypothesis was that acute sleep deprivation would not lead to an increase in operative times or complications. Methods. A retrospective review of all cases performed by thoracic surgical residents at the University of Virginia from January 1994 to March of 2004 was done. Complication rates of cases performed by "sleep deprived" (SD) residents were compared with cases done when the residents were "not sleep deprived" (NSD). A resident was deemed sleep deprived if he or she performed a case the previous evening that started between 10 pm and 5 am or ended between the hours of 11 pm and 7:30 am. Results. A total of 7,323 cases were recorded in the STS database over the 10-year period examined. Two hundred and twenty-nine of these cases (3%) were performed by SD residents. Mortality rates for coronary artery bypass operations showed no significant differences (2.1% [SD = 3 of 141 patients] vs 3.1% (NSD = 143 of 4452 patients), p = 0.63). A comparison of operative, neurologic, renal, infectious, and pulmonary complications as well as cardiopulmonary bypass times, cross-clamp times, the use of blood products, and length of stay also demonstrated no significant differences between groups. Conclusions. Acute sleep deprivation in thoracic surgical residents does not affect operative efficiency, morbidity, or mortality in cardiac surgical operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-65
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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