LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Here’s a new study that throws some serious support behind the idea that no one should work on their birthday. Researchers at UCLA say older patients who undergo emergency surgery on their surgeon’s birthday are more likely to die within a month than others who have the same or similar procedures on different days.
Among surgery patients over age 65, mortality rates are 23 percent higher among those treated on their surgeon’s birthday.
So, what’s going on here? Everyone wants to kick back a bit and celebrate on their birthday, but that of course doesn’t stop countless people from working anyway. Responsibilities and obligations take precedence, of course. Surgeons are no different from anyone else and study authors speculate these highly skilled doctors may be distracted during surgery due to turning one year older. As of now, however, that’s just a theory.
“Our study is the first to show the association between a surgeon’s birthday and patient mortality, but further research is needed before we make a conclusion that birthdays indeed have a meaningful impact on surgeons’ performance,” says senior study author Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, an assistant professor of medicine, in a university release. “At this point, given that evidence is still limited, I don’t think patients need to avoid a surgical procedure on the surgeon’s birthday.”
A rare coincidence with unnerving results if you’re due for surgery
Researchers examined postoperative 30-day mortality rates among Medicare beneficiaries between 65 and 99 years-old during the study. Each patient underwent one of 17 different surgical procedures between 2011 and 2014. In all, study authors looked at close to 981,000 surgeries performed by 48,000 different surgeons. A grand total of 2,064 (0.2%) of those surgeries took place on the surgeon’s birthday.
Patients who underwent a procedure on their surgeon’s birthday had a 6.9 percent mortality rate. In comparison, everyone else’s mortality rate was 5.6 percent. Researchers say that constitutes a 23-percent greater mortality risk during birthday surgeries.
There’s still a lot left to uncover here. Researchers could not actually establish why patients undergoing surgery on their surgeon’s birthday face a higher mortality risk. Is it due to more frequent errors? General carelessness? The UCLA team say more study on this connection is needed . They add since the review focuses on older adults, the same may not hold true for younger individuals.
The study is published in BMJ.