NPR

Double-Booked Surgeons: Study Raises Safety Questions For High-Risk Patients

Most patients do fine, research suggests, when the lead surgeon steps away to begin another procedure. But patients who are older or have underlying medical conditions sometimes fare worse.
The common practice of double-booking a lead surgeon's time and letting junior physicians supervise and complete some parts of a surgery is safe for most patients, a study of more than 60,000 operations finds. But there may be a small added risk for a subset of patients. Source: Ian Lishman/Getty Images

Surgeons are known for their busy schedules — so busy that they don't just book surgeries back to back. Sometimes they'll double-book, so one operation overlaps the next. A lead surgeon will perform the key elements, then move to the next room — leaving other, often junior surgeons, to open the procedure and finish it up.

A large study published Tuesday in JAMA suggests that this practice of overlapping surgeries is safe for most patients, with those undergoing overlapping surgeries faring the same as those who are the sole object of their surgeon's attention.

But the study also identified a subset of vulnerable patients who might be bad candidates; the practice of double-booking the lead surgeon's time seemed to

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