OBJECTIVE: To investigate the use of coffee, caffeinated drinks, and caffeine tablets for pharmacological cognitive enhancement (CE) among surgeons.
BACKGROUND: Surgeons have demanding workloads, and the resulting fatigue and concentration deficits can lead to medical errors. Some surgeons use substances that promote wakefulness to counteract these effects.
METHODS: A total of 3306 surgeons who attended 5 international conferences in 2011 were surveyed regarding their use of coffee, caffeinated drinks, and caffeine tablets for CE and potential factors derived from professional and private life using an anonymous self-report questionnaire. In this study, we were only interested in surgeons working in hospitals; therefore, 951 questionnaires were statistically analyzed.
RESULTS: The most prevalent reason for using caffeine of any kind was to reduce fatigue (54.3%). Further prevalent reasons are working the night shift (32.2%) and overly long and excessive work hours (31.7%). Lifetime, past-year, past-month, and past-week prevalence was 66.8%, 61.9%, 56.9%, and 50.5%, for coffee use; 24.2%, 15.4%, 9.9%, and 6.1%, for caffeinated drinks; and 12.6%, 5.9%, 4.7%, and 3.8%, respectively, for caffeine tablets. Caffeine use was associated with lower age, male gender, divorced marital status, living with children, lack of satisfaction with professional status, pressure to perform in private life, and pressure perceived to be harmful to one’s own health.
CONCLUSIONS: Surgeons often use caffeinated substances to cope with fatigue and long working hours. Coffee use was more prevalent than the use of caffeinated drinks and caffeine tablets.