Neurocognitive effects following an overnight call shift on faculty anesthesiologists

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2013 Sep;57(8):1051-7. doi: 10.1111/aas.12120. Epub 2013 Apr 17.


Background: The impact of sleep deprivation on neurocognitive performance is a significant concern to both the health of patients and to the physicians caring for them, as demonstrated by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education enforced resident work hours. This study examined the effects of an overnight call at a level 1 trauma hospital on neurocognitive performance of faculty anesthesiologists.

Methods: Eleven faculty anesthesiologists completed a series of computerized tests that were designed to evaluate different areas of neurocognition, such as working memory, verbal learning, and concentration. The anesthesiologists completed the tests following an overnight call in the morning at 6:30 and again following a normal night's rest at 6:30 on a different date.

Results: Within-subjects, repeated measures analysis of variance revealed a significant difference on post-call vs. control performance on measures of learning and memory (P = 0.04). However, there were no significant differences on performance on measures of working memory or sustained attention and vigilance. Pre-call vs. control performances were also evaluated, but no significant differences were detected.

Conclusions: Following a night call shift, performance on learning and memory was significantly reduced. Other areas were not significantly affected, which may have been due to certain possibilities, such as practice effect or variability in the call shifts. The real-world relevance of the decline in performance on these measures remains unclear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Faculty*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Physicians*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Verbal Learning / physiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance