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Surgery. 2016 Apr;159(4):1181-90. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2015.09.017. Epub 2015 Oct 29.

Structured cues or modafinil for fatigue amelioration in clinicians? A double-blind, randomized controlled trial of critical clinical information recall in fatigued clinicians.

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Department of BioSurgery and Surgical Technology, St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington, United Kingdom.
Department of BioSurgery and Surgical Technology, St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington, United Kingdom. Electronic address:



To evaluate the impact of modafinil on "free" and "cued" recall of clinical information in fatigued but nonsleep-deprived clinicians.


Despite attempts to minimize sleep deprivation through redesign of the roster of residents and staff surgeons, evidence suggests that fatigue remains prevalent. The wake-promoting agent modafinil improves cognition in the sleep-deprived fatigued state and may improve information recall in fatigued nonsleep-deprived clinicians.


Twenty-four medical undergraduates participated in a double-blind, parallel, randomized controlled trial (modafinil-200 mg:placebo). Medication was allocated 2 hours before a 90-minute fatigue-inducing, continuous performance task (dual 2-back task). A case history memorization task was then performed. Clinical information recall was assessed as "free"(no cognitive aids) and "cued"(using aid memoirs). Open and closed cues represent information of increasing specificity to aid the recall of clinical information. Fatigue was measured objectively using the psychomotor vigilance task at induction, before and after the dual 2-back task.


Modafinil decreased false starts and lapses (modafinil = 0.50, placebo = 9.83, P < .05) and improved psychomotor vigilance task performance (Decreased Performance, modafinil = 0.006, placebo = 0.098, P < .05). Modafinil improved free information recall (modafinil = 137.8, placebo = 106.0, P < .01). There was no significant difference between groups in the amount of information recalled with open (modafinil = 62.3, placebo = 52.8, P = .1) and closed cues (modafinil = 80.1, placebo = 75.9, P = .3).


Modafinil attenuated fatigue and improved free recall of clinical information without improving cue-based recall under the design of our experimental conditions. Memory cues to aid retrieval of clinical information are convenient interventions that could decrease fatigue-related error without adverse effects of the neuropharmacology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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