Work-hour limitations have been implemented by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in July 2003 in order to minimize fatigue related medical adverse events. The effects of this regulation are still under intense debate. In this literature review, data of effects of limited work-hours on the quality of life, surgical education, and patient care was summarized, focusing on surgical subspecialities.
Studies that assessed the effects of the work-hour regulation published following the implementation of ACGME guidelines (2003) were searched using PubMed database. The following search modules were selected: work-hours, 80-hour work week, quality of life, work satisfaction, surgical education, residency training, patient care, continuity of care. Publications were included if they were completed in the United States and covered the subject of our review. Manuscrips were analysed to identify authors, year of publication, type of study, number of participants, and the main outcomes.
Twenty-one articles met the inclusion criteria. Studies demonstrate that the residents quality of life has improved. The effects on surgical education are still unclear due to inconsistency in studies. Furthermore, according to several objective studies there were no changes in mortality and morbidity following the implementation.
Further studies are necessary addressing the effects of surgical education and studying the objective methods to assess the technical skill and procedural competence of surgeons. In addition, patient surveys analysing their satisfaction and concerns can contribute to recent discussion, as well.