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Beware of the “July Effect”

In All Health Watch, Featured Article, General Health, Health Warning

Only about 11% of surgeries are considered “emergencies” that have to be performed immediately. With the other 89%, there is some flexibility on when they can be scheduled.[1]

But if you are considering having a procedure in July, perhaps you should reconsider.

It’s because of something researchers have dubbed the “July Effect.”[2]

July is the month medical residents fresh out of med school typically start their new jobs. Some 30,000 freshly minted doctors stream into hospitals around the country. An important part of the learning process is making mistakes.

In the England, there is a similar effect. They have something known as Black Wednesday. It’s the first Wednesday in August when postgraduate medical trainees in the U.K. begin their rotations and start making rooking mistakes.[3]

July Is a Bad Month to Have Surgery

The University of California, San Francisco did a comprehensive review of 39 studies on the July Effect. It showed that hospital death rates increase up to 12% during the month. What’s more, patients endured longer surgery times and hospital stays than during other months.[4], [5]

The bottom line? If at all possible, avoid scheduling surgery for July.

And try to set your procedure for a Monday or Tuesday. Surgical mistakes are less likely to occur early in the week. Research in the BMJ revealed the odds of death from surgery were 44% higher on Friday—and 82% higher on weekends—than on Mondays.[6]

Hospitals tend to discharge patients near the end of the week. This means they are less crowded on Mondays and Tuesdays. A staff that is less busy is less likely to make mistakes.[7]

Stress and fatigue are also factors for surgeons. A difficult week can catch up with a surgeon by Friday. This can impair performance.

How to Find the Best Surgeon

Finding the right surgeon may be the most important factor for a good outcome. For many years, finding a good surgeon was like looking for a good hairdresser. People relied mainly on word of mouth.

Sure, you could examine a doctor’s education and board certifications. But even Ivy League surgeons with a wall full of certificates can be mediocre performers.

For the first time, surgeons’ complications rates recently became readily available online to the public free of charge. Complication rate is equivalent to a surgeon’s “batting average.”

Simply put, a doctor’s complication rate reveals what percentage of his or her patients had problems after surgery.

You can find this information on a website called Surgeon Scorecard. It’s run by ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism group. It offers death and complication rates for surgeons performing one of eight common elective procedures. It also has complication rates for hospitals.

Another website that offers even more detailed information is called SurgeonRatings. But it is currently being updated and not operational. SurgeonRatings is supported by Consumers’ Checkbook, a nonprofit, independent consumers’ group.

It promises to relaunch the service soon. You can go to the site now and sign up for an email notification that will alert you when it is back up.

If you’re having surgery, choosing the right time for the operation and a surgeon with a low complication rate can make all the difference in getting a favorable outcome.

Editor’s Note: Discover the leading cause of death your doctor won’t tell you about. It ranks behind only heart disease and cancer as a major killer. Find out how to protect yourself by reading our monthly journal, Independent Healing, HERE.


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