Aortic Dissection Repair: Does the Lunar Cycle Affect Outcomes? Interview with Dr. Frank Sellke, MD

Chief of cardiothoracic surgery and co-director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Rhode Island, The Miriam and Newport hospitals What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Sellke: The main findings of the study are that outcomes of repair of an ascending aortic dissection are improved under a full moon compared to other phases of the moon. This was with regard to both mortality and length of hospital stay. Interestingly, there was no correlation with season of the year. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Sellke: We were unsure what the findings would be, so we were surprised. We do not have a good explanation, however, many biologic processes are dependent on gravitation forces, etc, which may be different under a full moon. But we cannot say with any certainly or event scientific evidence that this is the case. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Sellke: It is more of a curiosity that anything else, but having major surgery, such as repair of an aortic dissection may be associated with improved outcome under a full moon. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Sellke: Repeating the study in other centers would be the first step. If it is repeatable in other centers, determining the reason would be interesting. If it only occurs in our center, it may just be a statistical fluke.


The influence of seasons and lunar cycle on hospital outcomes following ascending aortic dissection repaiR

Jeffrey H. Shuhaiber, Joseph L. Fava, Tai Shin, Nikola Dobrilovic, Afshin Ehsan, Arthur Bert, and Frank Sellke
Interact CardioVasc Thorac Surg f
irst published online July 9, 2013 doi:10.1093/icvts/ivt299

Press Release:

Rhode Island Hospital study shows effects of lunar cycle on cardiac patients undergoing acute aortic dissection
Waning and full moon cycles impact length of stay, mortality

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – If you need cardiac surgery in the future, aortic dissection in particular, reach for the moon. Or at least try to schedule your surgery around its cycle. According to a study at Rhode Island Hospital, acute aortic dissection (AAD) repair performed in the waning full moon appears to reduce the odds of death, and a full moon was associated with shorter length of stay (LOS). The study is published online in advance of print in the journal Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery.

The purpose of the study was to assess the effect of natural time variations of both the season and the lunar cycle phase on hospital survival and length of stay (number of days a patient is in the hospital) following acute aortic dissection repair.

“While there has been previous research of seasonal impacts on cardiovascular disease, there has not been any data about the effect of the lunar cycles on cardiac cases, until now,” said senior author Frank Sellke, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery and co-director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Rhode Island, The Miriam and Newport hospitals. “We focused the study on patients having aortic dissection and found that the odds of dying following this procedure were greatly reduced during the waning full moon, and that length of stay was also reduced during the full moon.”

Researchers studied the relationship of lunar cycles and seasonal variation on two surgical groups: Group A: Patients having repair of ascending aortic dissection, and Group B: Patients having aortic dissection and either aortic valve surgery, coronary bypass surgery, or both. They also studied the relationship of the lunar cycle on patients’ length of stay. The study indicates that aortic dissection performed during the full moon phase had a significantly shorter length of stay than two other moon phases – 10 days for the full moon cycle vs. 14 days for the other phases.

“Can we always plan for such procedures to be performed around lunar cycles? Of course not,” Sellke said. “But better understanding the effects of the environment – including seasonal and lunar cycles – on our health can help us to better understand these rhythms, and ultimately provide better care for our patients.”

The study was not funded. Sellke’s principal affiliation is Rhode Island Hospital, a member hospital of the Lifespan health system in Rhode Island.  He also has an academic appointment at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Other Lifespan researchers involved in the study are Joseph L. Fava, Ph.D, of The Miriam Hospital; Taiho Shin, MD; Nikolas Dobrilovic, M.D.; Afshin Ehsan, M.D.; Arthur Bert, M.D., all of Rhode Island Hospital and the Alpert Medical School. Lead research Jeffrey Shuhaiber, formerly with Rhode Island Hospital, is now affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic.

Press Release contact:
Ellen Slingsby
[email protected] 

July 22, 2013

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Last Updated on March 19, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD