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Having surgery? Avoid weekends, afternoon schedules. Here's why

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According to a new study, afternoons, weekends and the month of February are times when death following surgery is highly likely to occur.

Researchers from Japan used the data of over 55 million patients and found that 17 percent of patients are more likely to die following surgery on a Saturday afternoon because of what they call the weekend effect. The highest risk of death after surgery is in February or during the afternoon.

Previous research show that there is a large fluctuation in overall hospital deaths based on seasonal, daily and weekly variability. It is a phenomenon being studied throughout the world but this is the first time that researchers have shown similar cyclic differences for deaths after surgeries.

A retrospective study involved patients who went under the knife from 2006 to 2011 at the two hospital campuses of Charite Tertiary University Center in Berlin. 218,758 patients were part of the first analysis. Hospital mortality showed daily, weekly and monthly variability.

Dr. Felix and Prof. Claudia Spies from Charite University Medicine in Berlin, Germany said that the death rate is at 22 percent on weekends and 21 percent for surgeries done in the afternoon. Meanwhile, 16 percent of patients who had surgeries in February died.

Some say the variability in death rates could be traced from the quality of nursing care the patients receive. Surgical schedulers do not always consider surgical nursing wards capacity while they manage hospital resources varying from day to day. In Britain, junior doctors are in charge of patients during weekends. These doctors have several months' experience assisted by one or two on-call assistants answering their cellular phones at home.

"Several factors may have influenced this outcome," the researchers said in a press statement. "It may be that the standard of care differs throughout the day between weekdays and weekends. We need more data to draw conclusions regarding seasonal variation in postoperative outcome."

Researchers believe that more emergency procedures are done during the afternoon and weekend which could have controlled the analysis of the data. The under or over use of postoperative nursing facilities can either result in hospital funds being underutilized or hospital ability being compromised to provide the best care and patient outcome. However, the researchers do not consider whether or not the patients who were treated during those hours have more severe levels of trauma and illness, which may be a prejudice to the analysis. The study could be a powerful evidence of a healthcare problem worldwide.

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