Mayo Debunks 'July effect': Date Doesn’t Affect Surgery Success

Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013 01:12 PM

By Nick Tate

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The so-called “July Effect” — the belief that the influx of new medical residents and fellows at teaching hospitals each July makes it the worst time of year to be a patient — is a myth, new research suggests.
 
Mayo Clinic researchers who examined nearly one million hospitalizations for patients undergoing spine surgery from 2001 to 2008 found that there were no month-to-month differences in the success of procedures or patient improvements.

In addition to finding no substantial “July Effect,” the Mayo researchers found no difference in the care for higher-risk patients admitted for elective surgery or those undergoing simple or complex spinal procedures.

"We hope that our findings will reassure patients that they are not at higher risk of medical complications if they undergo spinal surgery during July as compared to other times of the year," said Jennifer McDonald, a Mayo Clinic radiologist who helped conduct the study, published online Tuesday in Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.

"While we only looked at spinal surgeries, we think it's likely we'd find similar outcomes among other surgeries and procedures."

The researchers’ analysis showed teaching hospitals reported minimally higher rates of post-operative infection and patients discharged to a long-term facility during July, when compared with other months.

But the differences were marginal and not high enough to establish a “July Effect.”

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