Next time you schedule a surgery, try to set the date for a Monday or Tuesday. Hospital research suggests that patients who undergo surgery on the weekend or late in the week have a higher risk of dying than those who go under the knife earlier in the week.
The difference is nothing to sneeze at, either. Patients were 44% more likely to die after having a surgery on a Friday than a Monday. That rate nearly doubles to 82% for patients who have surgery on the weekend rather than Monday.
Before freaking out, itís important to realize that people arenít dying left and right after weekend surgeries. In the study, less than 1% of the total patients passed away within a month after their operations. However, itís the significant difference in the death rates between Monday and late week patients that may have would-be surgery-goers consider their calendars more carefully.
For three years, researchers monitored patients who entered United Kingdom hospitals to receive elective surgery. Though previous research has also indicated a higher mortality rate for people who elect to have weekend surgeries, this is the first substantial study to show that late weekdays like Friday also carry a higher risk for patients.
Unfortunately, the study can only show correlation and not causation. However, that doesnít stop the researchers from making educated guesses as to why this increase in fatalities occurs. They speculate that hospitalsí weekend staffs arenít always as up to snuff as doctors present during the week. Not only do the experts believe that hospitals are more understaffed on weekends, but they note that the more experienced medical professionals tend to choose a conventional work schedule, leaving their greener coworkers to take the weekend shifts.
Additionally, doctors who have a weekend off to rest and refresh are probably more mentally and physically prepared for surgeries on Mondays. As the week wears on, surgeons are probably facing increased rates of stress and tiredness, which could impact their performance on the job.
On the other hand, the weight of the week also likely impacts the patients themselves. The tiredness and stress thatís mounted by the end of the week certainly doesnít leave patients in peak condition prior to their surgeries. Moreover, some patients may intentionally delay operations longer than they should to correspond with their days off, which could also have a slight effect on the surgeriesí outcomes.
At the end of the day, the most important factors in your health care remain choosing qualified professionals to treat you and addressing medical problems promptly as they arise. That said, if you should ever be presented with a choice when scheduling a surgery, early week appointments may be advice worth keeping in the back of your mind.