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What stresses surgeons out?

March 23, 2011|By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times
  • Long surgeries and patients losing a lot of blood caused the most stress for surgeons, according to a new study.
Long surgeries and patients losing a lot of blood caused the most stress… (Kim Kim Foster-Tobin / State )

Having surgery is obviously stressful for patients. But what about surgeons?

A new study from Archives of Surgery quantifies two scenarios that stress surgeons out:

  1. 1. Surgeries that last for more than three hours (and the longer they last, the more stressful they get).
  2. 2. Surgeries in which patients lose a lot of blood.
These findings are based on survey responses and urine tests from 66 Japanese surgeons practicing in Kitakyushu, a city in the southwestern part of the country. The surgeons were asked to fill out a questionnaire developed by NASA to measure their mental state and another one called a Stress Arousal Checklist that measures stress more directly. The urine tests looked for a chemical called biopyrin, a biomarker of oxidative stress.

Scores on both surveys were linked to the duration of surgeries and the amount of blood loss during procedures. Levels of biopyrin in the blood “were significantly elevated” when surgeries went past the three-hour mark and when patients lost at least 200 grams of blood.

The study also identified several things that could seem stressful to lay people but that are actually no big deal to those who hold the scalpels. For instance, performing many surgeries in one day, being the primary surgeon (as opposed to an assistant), and performing conventional surgery (as opposed to a minimally invasive procedure) did not lead to increases in any of the stress markers.

The study was published online on Monday.

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