What time heart surgery is performed has a huge impact on success

The researchers were careful to rule out surgeon skill as a potential impact on the outcome.

If you or a loved one had heart surgery planned, you may want to check what time it’s being done – if at all possible in today’s medical system, where we often have to take what time we can get.

That’s because new research published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet has found that open heart surgery conducted in the afternoon had far better outcomes than morning surgery.

The researchers studied how often “major adverse cardiac events” occurred in people having cardiovascular surgery at Lille University Hospital in France, and found that the incidence of serious adverse events was lower in patients who had their surgery done in the afternoon than those in the morning.

In fact, the number of serious events – heart attacks, heart failure, or death – was almost halved, with 54 out of 298 morning patients suffering one of these events, compared to 28 of 298 afternoon patients. 

The scientists suggested it was because our body clock meant that the strength of our heart changed throughout the day.

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For example, the BBC reported, the risk of heart attack or stroke is highest early in the morning, while the heart and lungs are working at peak efficiency in the afternoon, which is why professional athletes commonly record their best performances in the mid-to-late afternoon.

One of the researchers, Bart Staels from the Institut Pasteur de Lille, told the BBC that he didn’t want to deter people from having life-saving heart surgery, but that it could be possible for hospitals to use the research to better time surgeries.

“If we can identify patients at highest risk, they will definitely benefit from being pushed into the afternoon and that would be reasonable,” he said.

He said the researchers had gone to great lengths to rule out differences in individual surgeons skills that might impact the outcomes of the surgeries studied, and said the differences were also not due to some surgeons simply not being “morning people”.

Do you notice that you’re much more ‘alive’ in the morning or the afternoon? Does it have an impact on when you do certain tasks?