The 'weekend effect' may not have as big an impact on mortality

Patients admitted to the hospital on the weekend may have less reason to worry about the outcome of their stay, a new study has found.

Though hospital death rates have supported the theory of the "weekend effect”--in which patients are more likely to die if admitted on a Saturday or Sunday--researchers in the UK found that whether patients were admitted on a weekend mattered less than if they had emergency surgery scheduled for either of those days. And the mortality rates in both instances have dropped significantly over the past 15 years, the team found.

The weekend effect has been well-documented in a number of countries, FierceHealthcare has previously reported, but other recent studies have called those studies into question.

The latest study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, examined data on 12,000 patient deaths in the first 30 days after admission at hospitals in Northern England between 2000 and 2014 and found that the weekend effect was recorded most in older data. Patients admitted on the weekend accounted for 5.4 percent of the deaths recorded between 2000 and 2004; 4 percent of deaths between 2005 and 2009; and 2.9 of those recorded between 2010 and 2014.

“In the most recent time period studied we could no longer detect a statistical difference in outcomes on patients operated on at the weekend or during the week,” Paul O’Laughlin, M.D., senior author of the study, said in an announcement of the findings.

Patients who were scheduled for emergency surgery on a weekend faced a postoperative mortality rate of 7.5 percent between 2000 and 2004, which fell to 3.6 percent between 2010 and 2014. O’Laughlin said in the announcement the team observed improvements for patient outcomes for surgeries scheduled on any day of the week.

“Emergency surgery has long been recognized as an area of surgical practice that is high risk, complex and facing significant challenges with an ageing population. In conducting this research we found that there have been great improvements in outcomes overall, and also differences in care provided within the week and at the weekend,” O’Laughlin said.

- here’s the study
- read the announcement