According to the latest studies, psychostimulant Modafinil increases the level of concentration and attention of surgeons, but it does not improve their ability to perform different operations.
“Therefore to our experimental results, we believe that the drug may help tired doctors, making the perception of information more efficient, the thought processes – more flexible, facilitating decision-making under no time and under stress situations” , – writes Dr. Colin Sugden and colleagues from Imperial London College.
The debates about, whether to trust the complex surgeries, that require dexterity and quick response, to the tired doctors, have lasted for several years. Although, it is fairly impossible to define exactly how lack of sleep affects the results of operations, but it impairs mental performance indicators, as well as skill, especially for less experienced surgeons. As claim experts, due to medical errors are killed tens of thousands of people in the United States each year. Most of these deaths are related precisely to the operations.
The present study examined the efficacy of Modafinil against the lack of sleep for surgeons. The study involved 39 physicians. During a sleepless duty shifts in the department, half of them took Modafinil and the rest – a placebo. At 6:00 morning, all participants undergo psychological tests, and also performed some virtual operation on the simulator.
In most tests, Modafinil intake had no significant effect, but the improvement of mental faculties has been fixed: number of errors in tests of short-term memory, receiving the drug, decreased from 2.7 to 1.6.
Also, participants, taking Modafinil have spent less time to solve puzzle test on a complex movement of the balls and giving predetermined shape to them. Scientists explain the observed effect of the influence of the drug on the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for short-term memory and goal-oriented behavior.
At the same time, the medicine did not have any significant effect on the efficiency of the virtual operations.
“The expected ability of stimulants to help the weary doctors successfully take sick people, of course, is attractive, but here, as in sports, the risk of medication can surpass its favor. Before we approve and publish the results as clinically significant, we have to make numerous additional studies”, – says Dr. James Lyubovitts of New Mexico, who was not involved in the study.
The study found no serious side effects, but people taking Modafinil regularly, often complain of headaches, lightheadedness or nausea, allergic reactions. We remind, that in the U.S., the drug is approved only for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
In a number of countries, including the United States, with a view to the safety of patients, doctors try to keep the policy of night working hours limit. However, when the doctor completes his training, he stays to himself and is free to choose his own workload schedule.
“Physicians should monitor their state of health and well-being of colleagues for signs of excessive fatigue, – said Dr. Lyubovitts. – After all, the best and proven way to combat fatigue – a good night’s sleep”.