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Old 10-04-2005, 03:35 PM
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Michigan
Posts: 2,815
Do surgeons take breaks during long surgeries?

I was watching a show the other day and it mentioned a surgery that took over 12 hours to complete. How can a surgeon stay focused that long? Does she / he take breaks or do other surgeons come in to relieve him? It seems like a difficult and tedious operation like say, brain surgery you couldn't just hand off the scalpel to a relief surgeon. "I left off at the brain stem, Bob. Take it from there." Would the beginning surgeon go out and have a sandwich or something and then scrub back in? What if he really has to pee? If I was a surgeon I would worry about stuff like that.

What about emergency surgery that goes on and on? You couldn't just set the clamp down and go get something to eat, but wouldn't the surgeon's fatigue or hunger keep her from performing at her best?

I have learned things from shows like ER that show Dr.'s talking about the game or listening to music during surgery, but I haven't seen anyone address this.
Old 10-04-2005, 03:51 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 152
Do they? Yes.

Should they? *shrug*
Old 10-04-2005, 04:04 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Western Pennsylvania
Posts: 6,581
Many long surgical procedures involve teams of surgeons. While the entire surgery may take 12 hours, a vascular surgeon does 2.5 of those hours, an orthopod 4 of those hours, etc. Also, oftentimes a surgical resident closes the site.

The longest veterinary surgery I have ever done was around 2 1/4 hours. I would step away from the table and move stretch from time to time.
Old 10-04-2005, 05:08 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Seattle
Posts: 11,625
It depends on the surgeon, and the surgery. Liver transplants can take 12 to 24 hours. Since liver transplants require a team of surgeons, they can hand off and rest.
There are times when emergency surgery goes on for hours, without an opportunity for anyone to step away. In those cases, the surgeon pretty much runs on adrenalin.
There are neurological surgeries that take 12+ hours that are so technical, that the surgeon can't hand off or take a break. Its rare, but not unheard of that someone else holds a urinal for the surgeon so he doesn't have to break scrub.
Old 10-04-2005, 05:30 PM
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 3,475
Originally Posted by Velma
What if he really has to pee?
"Nurse... suction!"

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