Association of Otolaryngology Resident Duty Hour Restrictions With Procedure-Specific Outcomes in Head and Neck Endocrine Surgery

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Graduate medical education has undergone a transformation from traditional long work hours to a restricted plan to allow adequate rest for residents. The initial goal of this restriction is to improve patient outcomes.


To determine whether duty hour restrictions had any impact on surgery-specific outcomes by analyzing complications following thyroid and parathyroid procedures performed before and after duty hour reform.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Retrospective cross-sectional analysis of the National Inpatient Sample (NIS).The NIS was queried for procedure codes associated with thyroid and parathyroid procedures for the years 2000 to 2002 and 2006 to 2008. Hospitals were divided based on teaching status into 3 groups: nonteaching hospitals (NTHs), teaching hospitals without otolaryngology programs (THs), and teaching hospitals with otolaryngology programs (THs-OTO).

Main Outcomes and Measures

Procedure-specific complication rates, length of stay, and mortality rates were collected. SAS statistical software (version 9.4) was used for analysis with adjustment using Charlson comorbidity index.


Total numbers of head and neck endocrine procedures were 34 685 and 39 770 (a 14.7% increase), for 2000 to 2002 and 2006 to 2008, respectively. THs-OTO contributed a greater share of procedures in 2006 to 2008 (from 18% to 25%). With the earlier period serving as the reference, length of stay remained constant (2.1 days); however, total hospital charges increased (from $12 978 to $23 708; P < .001). Rates of postoperative hematoma (odds ratio [OR], 1.21; 95% CI, 1.06-1.38), hypoparathyroidism (OR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.06-1.52), and unintentional vessel lacerations (OR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.02-1.83) increased overall with NTHs (OR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.04-1.52), THs (OR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.15-2.37), and THs-OTO (OR, 1.98; 95% CI, 1.09-3.61) accounting for these differences, respectively. Overall mortality decreased (OR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.47-0.94) following a decrease in the TH-OTO mortality rate (OR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.12-0.93).

Conclusions and Relevance

While recurrent laryngeal nerve injury, hematoma formation, and hypoparathyroidism did not change, length of stay and mortality improved within THs-OTO following head and neck endocrine procedures after implementation of duty hour regulations. This finding refutes the concern that duty hour restrictions result in poorer overall outcomes. Less time available to develop technical competence may play a factor in some outcomes in lieu of recurrent laryngeal nerve injury increasing within THs and accidental injury to vessels, organs, or nerves and hypocalcemia increasing within THs-OTO. Furthermore, head and neck endocrine cases increased at THs with otolaryngology programs.

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