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Do Surgeries On Friday Have Higher Death Rates

When scheduling an elective surgery, you may prefer to have the operation take place on a Friday. It will allow you to have the weekend to recover. Your family may also be around on the weekend to help care for you. However, a new study looked at the numbers behind the idea that people who have elective surgery on Friday are more likely to die than people who have surgeries on other weekdays.

Researchers in Canada looked at over 400,000 elective, daytime surgical procedures from 2002 to 2012. The surgeries involved almost 1,700 different surgeons at hospitals throughout Ontario. The study was looking for the so-called “weekday effect”, based on the assumption that people who had their surgery on a Friday were more likely to suffer fatal consequences.

Dr. Luc Dubois was the lead author of the study, and a professor at Western University in London, Ontario. “It really looks like the senior surgeons are kind of cherry-picking the middle days of the week,” said Dubois. “Surgeons who operate on Friday are less experienced than those that operate on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.”

One of the reasons experienced surgeons may avoid Friday surgeries is that they may be required to provide some post-operative care on the following Saturday and Sunday. However, according to the research, there was no link between the day of the week for surgery and the death rate. “It means that people are getting consistent care across the week,” said Dubois.

Other studies suggest the opposite. A British study found that patients were 44% more likely to die after surgery on a Friday compared to a Monday surgery. This study was based on data from 4 million operations in hospitals in England between 2008 and 2011. Weekend surgeries were even more alarming, with an 82% increase in fatality rates compared to Mondays.

According to Dr. Paul Aylin of Imperial College London, “if quality of care is lower at the weekend we would expect higher mortality rates, not just for patients operated on then but also those who have operations towards the end of the week, whose post-operative care overlaps.

Dr. Dubois has said it is hard to know if the Canadian research would apply to U.S. surgeries because the American and Canadian health systems are very different. However, research in the U.S. suggests weekend surgeries are more likely to involve potentially dangerous complications. According to information reported at a meeting of the American College of Surgeons, an appendix removal on the weekend was more likely to result in complications after surgery than an operation on a weekday. This has been called the “weekend effect.”

If you or a loved one was injured because of a surgical mistake, the Gilman & Bedigian team is here to help. We are fully equipped to handle the complex process of your medical malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensation, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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