Effect of fatigue on psychomotor and cognitive skills

Am J Surg. 2008 Feb;195(2):195-204. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2007.10.004.


Background: Previous studies have explored the effect of fatigue on general psychomotor proficiency. However, studies specifically addressing the effect of fatigue on surgical residents' cognitive skills during simulated surgical exercises are lacking.

Methods: Thirty-seven surgical residents in both the precall and the postcall condition were tested for psychomotor and cognitive skill evaluation on a virtual-reality simulator with haptic feedback and hand-motion recording. To evaluate surgical skills, hand- and tool-movement smoothness, cognitive errors, and time to completion for specific tasks were analyzed.

Results: In addition increased cognitive errors, a significant decrease (P < .01) was recorded in the proficiency variables of memory, attention, and intermodal coordination tasks when residents were in the postcall condition.

Conclusions: Fatigue and sleep deprivation cause a significant deterioration in the surgical residents' cognitive skills as measured by virtual reality simulation. Psychomotor skills are also negatively impacted during tasks that require a combination of psychomotor and cognitive skills.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Fatigue / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Probability
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sleep Deprivation / complications
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • User-Computer Interface