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Survey indicates alcoholism common among surgeons

A recent study published in the Archives of Surgery indicates that alcoholism is an issue among surgeons and that alcohol abuse poses a "significant problem" that could potentially impair the ability of a surgeon to practice with the skill and ability to avoid committing medical malpractice.

The study was based on a survey of 25,000 surgeons, of which 7,197 responded. Of those who responded, 1,112 met the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence. About 14 percent of male surgeons had alcohol issues and a quarter of female surgeon suffered from alcoholism.

The numbers of surgeons with drinking problems may be even higher however because so few surgeons responded to the survey.

"Surgeons who drink more heavily are potentially less likely to respond, which might underestimate the prevalence of alcohol abuse," one researcher noted.

The link between alcoholism and medical malpractice is becoming clearer as new studies are done on the subject. One small study found that excessive drinking greatly increased the number of medical mistakes made the day after a night out. Hung-over medical students performed twice as many errors and hung-over surgeons saw their error rate go up by about half.

Source: Medical Daily, "Survey Reveals that 15% of Surgeons Have Alcohol Dependency," Christine Hsu, Feb. 23, 2012

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