You’re twice as likely to die within thirty days of surgery if you have it at night

Do you or a loved one have any upcoming surgeries? See if you can schedule it in the morning. Patients who go under the knife after hours are more than twice as likely to die within thirty days of the operation.

Those are the findings of a new five-year study from the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. For this report, researchers analysed 41,716 planned and emergency surgeries and looked at the number of hospital deaths that occurred within 30 days of the operation.

It turns out that patients who are operated on at night seem to be twice as likely to die as those who had their surgeries during regular daytime hours.

Each day was divided into three blocks of time – from 7:30am to 3:29pm, 3:30pm to 11:29pm, and from 11:30pm to 7:29am. After adjusting for age and other possible variations, the patients who were operated on at night were 2.17 times more likely to die than those who were treated in the morning time slot.

(People who had surgery later in day were still 1.43 times more likely to die than those operated on from 7.30am to 3.29pm.)

The study data included 352 post-operative deaths over the five-year period.

Lead researcher Dr. Michael Tessler, from McGill University, said: “This study demonstrates that late day and night emergency surgery is associated with higher mortality.”

The study authors theorize that the possible causes of the increased deaths associated with night surgery include, (but are not limited to), provider fatigue during anaesthesia and surgery, overnight hospital staffing issues, delays in treatment (for example how many operating rooms are available), or the patient being too sick to be postponed prior to treatment.

The authors say: “Analysis of each of these possibilities is important to understand the reasons for this increased mortality and to direct any remedial action in an effort to reduce postoperative mortality.”

Until then, do yourself a favour. Schedule all elective and non-emergency surgeries as early in the day as possible. You just might cut your risk of dying in the next thirty days in half.

The study was presented at the World Congress of Anaesthesiologists (WCA) and published in the journal World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists.