Perhaps you’ve heard the advice to avoid hospitals in July on account of the legions of just-graduated doctors who will kill you with their inexperience. Thus far, the claim, though plausible, remains unsubstantiated. However, a recent study showing a variation in mortality after surgery depending on the day of the week it’s performed seems to have more to it.
According to a report that came out in the British Medical Journal, the risk of death after undergoing non-emergency surgery is lowest on Monday (1%), and goes up every day of the week thereafter. People who have surgery on Friday are 44% more likely to die than those who have it on Monday (the rate increases from 1% to 1.44%). The news is still worse for the small number of people who have surgery on the weekends, when the risk of death from complications rises 82% compared to Monday (the rate increases to 1.82%).
Researchers think one explanation for this is the relatively high-risk 48-hour period following surgery, when people are at the highest risk for complications like post-operative bleeding and infection. People who have surgery later in the week may not have as ready access to care, as fewer doctors and nurses work on the weekends than during the week.
It’s important to note that the risk is still low (it reaches around 1.82% on for people who have weekend surgeries, an increase of 0.82%). That said, obviously there should not be such a notable variation in mortality based on day of the week surgery is scheduled. One solution might be that going forward, high-risk or major surgeries should only be performed in the beginning of the week, saving lower-risk procedures for later in the week. Combined with increased efforts to educate patients on recognizing signs that they need to seek medical attention, perhaps this increased risk can be brought back in line.