Sleep deprivation decreases doctor performance… Duh, really?

I giggled reading my medical alerts today.

Some genius hypothesised that sleep deprivation would decrease doctor performance (in this case, it was found that being on-call and performing an emergency procedure led to a 24% decrease in adenoma detection rates the next day). This result echoed that of another study that found that sleep deprivation leads to lower rates of polyp detection in endoscopic trainees.

Seriously… you need a study for this?! Anyone who has been sleep deprived knows what their performance is like the next time. Suboptimal is a kind word. The patients are lucky the doctor didn’t try to scope the colon via aural route*.

*Although, I do remember a surgeon, way back in my early days, who had issues with his performance at the best of times (unfortunately his Dad was a VIP hence why he was never kicked out).  He achieved infamy however when he was performing a flexible cystoscopy (scope into the bladder) but incorrectly inserted the scope into the rectum, then started freaking out and calling his consultant because the patient “had all this faeces in the bladder”.

... That confuses the urethra with the anus...

… That confuses the urethra with the anus…

Back to the studies… Suggestions from the authors include: doctors needing to be aware of the influence of sleep deprivation on procedural outcomes, and to consider altering their practices accordingly.

In the real world – how do we “alter practices accordingly”. In a fantasy world, doctors wouldn’t be working a whole work day, all through the night, and then for the whole of the next day again – all while operating heavy machinery, putting scopes inside your body, using a scalpel on you. And people get upset when doctors are grumpy… geez.

Next time you go for your procedure don’t ask your doctor if he/she’s been on call the night before; their answer may freak you out.

Benson M, Grimes I, Gopal D, Reichelderfer M, Soni A, Benson H, Austin K, Pfau P. Influence of previous night call and sleep deprivation on screening colonoscopy quality. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014 Aug;109(8):1133-7. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2014.28. Epub 2014 Jul 1.
Kelly OB, Harewood GC. Sleep deprivation leads to reduction in polyp detection among endoscopy trainees. Gastrointest Endosc. 2012 Dec;76(6):1279-80. doi: 10.1016/j.gie.2012.07.038.

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