Effects of a moderate dose of alcohol on simulated laparoscopic surgical performance

A. H. Dorafshar, D. J. O'Boyle, R. F. McCloy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: In medicine, there is no professional regulation of the drinking of alcohol, nor a body of experimental evidence on which such regulation might be based. Here we report the acute and longer-term ("hangover") effects of a moderate dose of alcohol on performance, as assessed objectively on a laparoscopic surgical simulator. Methods: In a single-blind, experimental study, medical student subjects were assigned randomly to an alcohol (1.05 mg/kg) or a placebo condition (n = 14 in each). The effects of alcohol on performance on the MIST Virtual Reality surgical simulator were examined 60-90 min and 600-630 min (after a night's sleep) following its ingestion. Measures of the number of errors, time taken, hand movement economy, and excessive use of diathermy were recorded. Results: On each measure, performance was significantly impaired 60-90 min following alcohol ingestion, but there was no hangover effect 600-630 min later, following a night's sleep. This impairment could not be attributed to between-group differences in either predrink performance, expertise or estimated sleep duration during the night preceding the experimental session. Conclusions: Simulated surgical performance is impaired severely when estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is just above the UK legal limit for driving. These results contribute new, objective and quantitative evidence to the current debate about the use and misuse of alcohol within the medical profession.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1753-1758
Number of pages6
JournalSurgical Endoscopy and Other Interventional Techniques
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Laparoscopic surgery
  • Surgical performance
  • Surgical simulation
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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