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Study shows that surgeons suffer from alcohol dependency

Have you ever had surgery? Many Massachusetts residents know that surgical operations are a big deal. There are many risks associated with medical procedures, and surgical errors result in dire consequences. During the process, we trust that a certified and experienced physician will operate with due diligence and care. However, did you know that more than 15 percent of surgeons have a drinking problem?

Researchers conducted an anonymous survey involving more than 25,000 surgeons. Out of the 7,197 physicians that completed the survey, 1,112 met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence. Furthermore, the results showed that 14 percent of male surgeons and 26 percent of female surgeons were dependent on alcohol.

The study found that surgeons who were depressed were more likely to abuse alcohol. In the February issue of the Archives of Surgery, authors of the study wrote that their findings demonstrate that there is a "significant problem [with] the potential to impair a surgeon's ability to practice with skill and safety." Many professions use random drug screenings; however, surgeons are not evaluated.

Another study, which was published in the April 2011 edition of Archives of Surgery, found that excessive consumption of alcohol appeared to be associated with more medical errors the day after a night out. The study demonstrated that more mistakes were made in a virtual reality procedure when operators were hung-over. Furthermore, one of the test subjects still had detectable blood alcohol levels during the morning of the simulated procedure.

The dangers of operating under the influence could be threatening to a patient. Fortunately, alcohol abuse and dependence is a treatable condition. Hopefully, physicians that suffer from alcohol addiction will begin to pursue treatment options. It's not worth hurting someone on the operating table for a short-lived beer buzz.

Source: Medical Daily, "Survey reveals that 15% of surgeons have alcohol dependency," Christine Hsu, Feb. 23, 2012

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