Weekend surgeries shoot up the risk of death: Study

By Enozia Vakil , May 29, 2013 02:26 PM EDT

A new study, published on British Medical Journal's website, revealed a shocking new discovery- patients undergoing a planned surgery are at a greater risk of dying during the weekends, than during weekdays.

A team of researchers from the Imperial College, London, took into consideration the data from all non-emergency surgeries that took place by NHS in England between the years 2008-2011. After careful evaluation of over 4 million surgeries, they found that over 27,000 patients died within a month of undergoing the surgery, which accounts for a good 0.067 percent risk of death post surgery.

What was even more surprising was the fact that there was a noticeable variation in the death rates over the week, with the highest number of deaths associated with surgeries done during the weekends, and the lowest numbers with that of surgeries carried out during the weekdays.

The paper clearly reveals that patients who have their surgeries scheduled on weekends are 44 percent more likely to die of complications than those who had their surgeries on weekdays.

The researchers speculate that the reason behind this variation in death rates may be due to the poorer quality of post-op care during the weekends.

"The first 48 hours following a procedure is most critical and when things can go wrong, such as bleeding and infections. If you don't have the right staff, this is likely to contribute to things being missed," Dr Paul Aylin, lead author of the study explained. "If I were a patient I would take comfort from the fact the overall death rate is low, but if I were to have an operation towards the end of the week I would be interested in whether the hospital had the appropriate services to look after me throughout my recovery, including at the weekend."

Yet another reason for the increase in the number of death rates during the weekends may be fewer doctors, surgeons and nurses during these more 'social' days of the week.

To this, Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS, England, commented "We have established a forum to develop viable financial and clinical options to help our NHS provide more comprehensive services seven days a week."

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