Resident work restrictions limit participation in operations that address problems created by a prior operation, because complications occur at any time. We compared resident and attending surgeon staffing of operative complications. We reviewed all complications that required a second operation reported at our Morbidity and Mortality Conference over 1 year, noting surgeons present, their postgraduate year level, and call shift. Comparisons were done using chi2. Of 142 cases, 39 involved a second operation. The same attending surgeon was present for both in 79 per cent of cases, whereas the same resident was present in only 44 per cent (P = 0.002). Postgraduate year 4 to 5 were less likely to be present for second operations than attendings (48% vs 87%, P = 0.011). Resident shift (day, night float, and weekend) was known in 32 cases. When the first operation occurred during day hours, attendings and residents were equally likely to be present at the second (55% and 45%, P = 0.16). When original operations took place during night float or weekend shifts, residents were less likely to be present (33%) than attendings (83%) at second operations (P = 0.036). Duty hour restrictions interfere with operative continuity of care. Reoperations should be exempted from duty hour restrictions.