All 14 surgeons (11 men and 3 women) in training at a teaching hospital in Denmark participated in the study.
A night shift started at 3.30pm and finished at 9am the following day. All trainees had similar, limited experience in laparoscopic surgery.
Using a virtual reality surgical trainer, all participants performed 9 repetitions of 6 tasks.
The laparoscopic surgical skills of the 14 trainees were assessed on the 10th repetition of the task, which was performed during normal daytime working hours, and again at 9.30am after a night on call with impaired sleep.
| Average total sleep when on call was 1.5 hours.
| British Medical Journal |
The average total sleep time during the night on call was 1.5 hours.
Surgeons showed impaired speed and accuracy in simulated laparoscopic performance after a night on call. This suggested that significant deficits in psychomotor performance occur after 17 hours on call with disturbed night sleep, say the authors.
Factors connected with surgical work, such as emergency workload, stress, and emotional demands, may potentiate the effects of sleep deprivation alone, they add.
"Further studies should determine how long it takes for surgeons' laparoscopic performance to recover after an extended period on duty. They should be aimed at developing and evaluating countermeasures that can maximize alertness and reduce fatigue," they conclude.