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Surgeon's skills suffer after drinking

LOS ANGELES -- Would you want your surgeon to party hearty the night before you went under his scalpel? Probably not. Yet there are no rules on the amount of alcohol a surgeon may (or may not) consume on the eve of a day in the operating room.

Researchers gathered six surgeons with extensive experience in laparoscopic procedures, a "minimally invasive" surgery, and treated them to dinner in a restaurant. The surgeons were offered unlimited amounts of alcohol and told to drink until they felt they were intoxicated.

The researchers drove the doctors home and picked them up in the morning, delivering them to a laboratory equipped with a simulator that uses virtual reality to let users practice laparoscopic surgery techniques.

The surgeons were tested at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Each time, their surgical skills were worse than they had been in a baseline test, though only the scores for the 1 p.m. effort lagged by a statistically significant margin. The study was published in Archives of Surgery. -- Los Angeles Times


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