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Hungover Surgeons Make More Mistakes: Study
Date:4/19/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Surgeons who drink to excess the night before they operate are more likely to make errors the next day, even as late as four in the afternoon, according to a novel experiment described in a recent Irish study.

The error rate in the operating room due to a hangover seemed to peak around lunchtime, according to the research, published in the April issue of Archives of Surgery.

The message appears obvious: "Surgeons and other [medical personnel] should not drink excessively the night before operating," said the study's first author, Tony Gallagher, a professor of human factors at the School of Medicine at University College Cork in Cork. "The definition of excessively is an issue that needs to be defined by the surgical profession."

In fact, with all the challenges posed by modern image-guided surgical techniques, "abstinence from alcohol the night before operating may be a sensible consideration for practicing surgeons," the study authors concluded.

Unlike airline pilots, who have had to follow a "bottle-to-throttle" mandate restricting drinking before flights since 1971, surgeons have no "bottle-to-scalpel" rule.

No airline pilots can fly if they have consumed alcohol 8 hours before takeoff or if their blood alcohol is 0.04 or more, according to federal regulations, and pilots are encouraged not to drink at all the day before flying.

But in the medical profession, "doctors are expected to be substance-free all the time on the job, but there's no real rule of [drinking alcohol outside of work hours]," said Dr. Albert Wu, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "If their findings are replicated, it would reasonable to [restrict] alcohol consumption 'x' hours before assuming duty."

The Irish researchers focused on minimal
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