April 25, 2011 – A new study conducted by Emily Boyle, researcher and surgeon at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, has shown a connection between a night of drinking and errors made by surgeons during next-day procedures. CNN Health reported the results recently made public in the Archives of Surgery. During the experiments, a group of 8 seasoned surgeons from Yale University attended a dinner-and-drinks party where they were told to drink until they felt intoxicated. The next day their blood-alcohol level (BAC) was tested and then they were given a series of mock operations to perform using a virtual reality training program for laparoscopic procedures. As late as 1 p.m. the surgeons made more errors during the procedures than they had when they performed the same tasks the day prior to the drinking party. All of the surgeons except 1 had no traces of alcohol in their system when performing the mock surgeries after a night of drinking. Although the training exercises are not completely accurate of how a surgeon may perform in a real operation, the fact that some skills required to operate were impaired in the mock surgeries is enough to raise concern. Currently there are no guidelines for drinking restrictions for surgeons scheduled to perform surgery. Other highly skilled technical professions, such as piloting a commercial airplane, have rules prohibiting pilots from drinking alcohol 8 hours prior to flight. While the study does not provide enough evidence to call for such a policy for surgeons, it will hopefully promote a higher self-awareness for medical professionals and their performance after drinking.
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