In July 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) introduced a set of regulations that mandated a reduction in the number of hours that medical residents can work. These requirements have generated controversy among medical educators, with some expressing concern that reducing resident hours may limit clinical exposure and competency, particularly in surgical specialties.
This study examines the impact of duty hour restrictions on resident operative experience in residents in 2 surgical subspecialties since the implementation of the ACGME duty hour limits.
We examined operative log data for vascular surgery and pediatric surgery, using the academic year immediately preceding the duty hour restrictions, 2002 to 2003, as a baseline for comparison to subsequent academic years through 2006 to 2007 for vascular surgery and 2007 to 2008 for pediatric surgery.
Graduating fellows in pediatric surgery showed no change in their total operative volume following duty hour restrictions. The pediatric-defined category of neonate procedures showed an increase following duty hour restrictions. Graduating fellows in vascular surgery showed an increase in total major procedures as surgeon. The vascular-defined categories of endovascular-diagnostic, endovascular-therapeutic, and endovascular-graft procedures also increased.
The reduction of duty hours has not resulted in a decrease in operative volume as some have predicted. Operative volume in pediatric surgery remained mainly unchanged, whereas operative volume in vascular surgery increased. We explore possible explanations for the observed findings.