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Going under the knife? Avoid Fridays. Trust us, we asked a doctor

Fewer docs in hospital at weekend, greater risk of death, study finds

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British readers who have an appointment with the sawbones are directed to this illuminating report in the British Medical Journal, which concludes that you're substantially more at risk of popping your clogs as a result of surgery if they open you up on a Friday or a weekend.

That's the conclusion of a team led by Dr Paul Aylin from Imperial College London, which carried out a "retrospective analysis of national hospital administrative data" from "all acute and specialist English hospitals carrying out elective surgery over three financial years, from 2008-09 to 2010-11".

Of the 4,133,346 admissions for "elective operating room procedures", 27,582 died within 30 days - a "crude mortality rate" of 6.7 per 1,000.

However, "odds of death were 44 per cent and 82 per cent higher, respectively, if the procedures were carried out on Friday or a weekend compared with Monday".

This may well be due to the fact that there are fewer full-time medics on hand over the weekends in Blighty's National Health Service - and that's a crucial 48-hour period for you if you've gone under the knife on a Friday.

The study's authors state:

Our analysis confirms our overall study hypothesis (with some heterogeneity) of a "weekday effect" on mortality for patients undergoing elective surgery — that is, a worse outcome in terms of 30 day mortality for patients who have procedures carried out closer to the end of the week and at the weekend itself.

They add: "The reasons behind this remain unknown, but we know that serious complications are more likely to occur within the first 48 hours after an operation, and a failure to rescue the patient could be due to well-known issues relating to reduced and/or locum staffing (expressed as number and level of experience) and poorer availability of services over a weekend."

Dr Aylin told the BBC: "If I were a patient I would take comfort from the fact the overall death rate is low, but if I were to have an operation towards the end of the week I would be interested in whether the hospital had the appropriate services to look after me throughout my recovery, including at the weekend." ®

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