Overlapping surgery is safe for most patients, but use with caution in those at high risk, study finds

by Joanne Finnegan | Feb 28, 2019

The practice of doctors performing overlapping surgeries is safe for most patients, but high-risk patients might be the exception, a new study found.

A large study published in JAMA found that for adult patients undergoing common operations, overlapping surgery was not significantly associated with differences in in-hospital deaths or post-operative complications. However, overlapping surgeries did result in increased lengths of those surgeries by an average of 30 minutes.

And the research found that a subset of patients considered at high risk might be bad candidates for overlapping surgery, which put them at higher risk of death and post-operative complications such as infections, pneumonia or heart attack.

Unlike prior studies that looked at the safety of overlapping surgery and focused on a single institution or a single type of operation, researchers examined the results of 66,430 operations—of which 8,224 were overlapping—which took place at eight medical centers over an eight-year period and included common surgeries such as total knee or hip arthroplasty, spine surgery, coronary artery bypass graft surgery and craniotomy.

The study differentiated between overlapping surgery, in which more than one procedure performed by the same primary surgeon is scheduled so the start time of one overlaps with the end time of another, and concurrent surgery, when critical parts of operations occur during the same time and the attending surgeon is going back and forth between procedures.

Research has focused on the safety of double-booking surgery after the topic landed in the national spotlight several years ago.


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Chris J. Stewart

Chris currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Surgio Health as well as Chief Operating Officer at Ortho Spine Partners. Prior to that, he was the assistant vice president and business unit leader of Medical Device Management for HealthTrust Purchasing Group (HPG).

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