ABSTRACT: Worse outcomes for patients undergoing brain tumor and cerebrovascular procedures following the ACGME resident duty-hour restrictions
Object On July 1, 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) implemented duty-hour restrictions for resident physicians due to concerns for patient and resident safety. Though duty-hour restrictions have increased resident quality of life, studies have shown mixed results with respect to patient outcomes. In this study, the authors have evaluated the effect of duty-hour restrictions on morbidity, mortality, length of stay, and charges in patients who underwent brain tumor and cerebrovascular procedures. Methods The Nationwide Inpatient Sample was used to evaluate the effect of duty-hour restrictions on complications, mortality, length of stay, and charges by comparing the pre-reform (2000-2002) and post-reform (2005-2008) periods. Outcomes were compared between nonteaching and teaching hospitals using a difference-in-differences (DID) method. Results A total of 90,648 patients were included in the analysis. The overall complication rate was 11.7%, with the rates not significantly differing between the pre- and post-duty hour eras (p = 0.26). Examination of hospital teaching status revealed that complication rates decreased in nonteaching hospitals (12.1% vs 10.4%, p = 0.0004) and remained stable in teaching institutions (11.8% vs 11.9%, p = 0.73) in the post-reform era. Multivariate analysis demonstrated a significantly higher complication risk in teaching institutions (OR 1.33 [95% CI 1.11-1.59], p = 0.0022), with no significant change in nonteaching hospitals (OR 1.11 [95% CI 0.91-1.37], p = 0.31). A DID analysis to compare the magnitude in change between teaching and nonteaching institutions revealed that teaching hospitals had a significantly greater increase in complications during the post-reform era than nonteaching hospitals (p = 0.040). The overall mortality rate was 3.0%, with a significant decrease occurring in the post-reform era in both nonteaching (5.0% vs 3.2%, p < 0.0001) and teaching (3.2% vs 2.3%, p < 0.0001) hospitals. DID analysis to compare the changes in mortality between groups did not reveal a significant difference (p = 0.40). The mean length of stay for all patients was 8.7 days, with hospital stay decreasing from 9.2 days to 8.3 days in the post-reform era (p < 0.0001). The DID analysis revealed a greater length of stay decrease in nonteaching hospitals than teaching institutions, which approached significance (p = 0.055). Patient charges significantly increased in the post-reform era for all patients, increasing from $70,900 to $96,100 (p < 0.0001). The DID analysis did not reveal a significant difference between the changes in charges between teaching and nonteaching hospitals (p = 0.17). Conclusions The implementation of duty-hour restrictions correlated with an increased risk of postoperative complications for patients undergoing brain tumor and cerebrovascular neurosurgical procedures. Duty-hour reform may therefore be associated with worse patient outcomes, contrary to its intended purpose. Due to the critical condition of many neurosurgical patients, this patient population is most sensitive and likely to be negatively affected by proposed future increased restrictions.