'July Effect' In Hospitals Is A Myth, Mayo Clinic Study Finds -- At Least When It Comes To Spine Surgery

The "July Effect" -- the notion that July is the most dangerous time to be a patient because of new, inexperienced residents at hospitals -- is a myth, at least when it comes to spine surgeries, according to a new study from Mayo Clinic researchers.

The study, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, shows that there was no spike in in-hospital deaths or complications after surgery in July compared to other months.

Researchers did find an increase of infection after surgery, as well as in the number of patients being discharged to long-term facilities in July in teaching hospitals, but they said these increases were not enough to account for the "July Effect."

The findings are based on analysis of nearly 1 million spine surgery hospitalizations that occurred between 2001 and 2008 that were included in the Nationwide Inpatient Sample.

"We hope that our findings will reassure patients that they are not at higher risk of medical complications if they undergo spinal surgery during July as compared to other times of the year," study researcher Jennifer McDonald, Ph.D., a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said in a statement. "While we only looked at spinal surgeries, we think it's likely we'd find similar outcomes among other surgeries and procedures."

However, the findings seem to contradict a previous review of studies in the Annals of Internal Medicine published in 2011, showing that patient death rates increase anywhere from 8 to 34 percent in July compared with other months. And in 2010, a study of 240,000 hospital deaths from medication errors from 1979 to 2006 showed that death rates in hospitals peaked in July, particularly in regions with teaching hospitals, CNN reported.