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Medical Reasons for 'Weekend Effect' Elusive

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 20, 2012

Two recent studies have bolstered the argument that the so-called "weekend effect" exists. Like earlier studies, however, neither new study can say exactly why it's happening.

A Johns Hopkins study published this month in the Journal of Surgical Research reviewed more than 38,000 patient records of older adults who sustained head trauma over the weekend and found that they were 14% more likely to die from those injuries than patients with similar injuries who were hospitalized Monday through Friday, even after accounting for other factors.

"The underlying mechanism responsible for this disparity may be related to differences in weekday versus weekend staffing," the study concluded. "However, this must be studied further so that the factors driving disparities in outcomes can be thoroughly understood and the increased risk associated with weekend treatment for head trauma can be eliminated."

The study's lead author, Eric B. Schneider, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research, said "there isn't a medical reason for worse results on weekends."

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