Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Anesthesiology, The Most Unhealthy Specialty In Medicine

The New York Times Well Blog reported on a study today with particular relevance for anesthesiologists.  Researchers reported that men who sat more than 23 hours per week watching TV had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from an MI than men who watched less than 11 hours per week.  Contrary to expectations, men who watched more TV but also exercised regularly did not decrease their risk for coronary artery disease.

Hmm, which job in medicine has the doctor sitting in a chair all day staring at a monitor?  Which job stresses the doctor to interact, sometimes negatively, with another doctor on the same patient in the same room at the same time?  Which medical specialty is widely known for having an increased risk for substance abuse because of the stress and easy accessibility of mind altering substances?  If you guessed anesthesiology for all three you should proceed to the head of the class and receive your gold star.

The combination of sedentary lifestyle, stress on the job, and likelihood of developing an abuse problem is unique to anesthesiologists.  Some might say radiologists also sit on the job throughout the day.  But the difference is that radiologists can come and go out of the reading room at their leisure.  They also have much less of a risk of developing an addiction.  Anesthesiologists are pretty much stuck inside the operating room.  Let's face it, the only walking most anesthesiologists perform during the day is going to and from Preop and Recovery.  While people may say to just stand up during a case, that's not realistic.  I'm more likely to develop pedal edema and varicose veins standing in a small area all day than to get any benefit from standing vs. sitting.  Eventually all of us succumb to that comfy chair just beckoning us to sit down and relieve our tired feet and back.

I used to think that countering this inactivity with regular exercise will be helpful.  But according to this study it makes no difference.  When I get home I might as well plop in front of the Playstation 3 since exercise did not decrease coronary morbidity.  So for all those medical students who dream about being anesthesiologists, beware what you're getting into.  Though the lifestyle is great, the income is fabulous, and the dating opportunities are dreamy (oops, that was just a dream), anesthesiology may shorten your life.

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