Verify: Does a full moon really impact hospitals?

2017 WTSP-TV

Have you ever heard a nurse or doctor say they dread working in the ER during this time? Is it really any busier than any other night in the Emergency Room?

We took that question to Dr. Ferdinand Richards, who has been working in Tampa General's ER since 1986.

"If you ask most medical professionals they will tell you that on full moons things are busier and more extreme," said Dr. Richards.

According to doctors, nurses, and researchers this topic has been talked about and debated for decades. There's no shortage of studies that look at whether a full moon impacts the ER or specific areas of medicine.

In 2015, UCLA professor Jean-Luc Margo examined a decade old study from Spain that claimed the full moon impacted how busy hospitals are and even their birth rates. When he analyzed the same admission records and birth rates -- he found a different outcome.

"You can use statistical tools to demonstrate whether there's any increase associated to full moon – or any phase of the moon for that matter – in case of human birth or admission in Barcelona – no correlation," explained Margot.

In 2009 doctors at the Cleveland Clinic looked at the moon's impact on surgeries.

"In two very large studies, the phase of the moon had no influence whatsoever on mortality after cardiac or non-cardiac surgery," said Dr. Daniel Sessler in a statement to 10News.

In 2004 USF Professor and Tampa General's Dr. Selim Benbadis looked at whether the full moon had any impact on the frequency of seizures. The study looked at 3 years of data and found: "The occurrence of seizures does not appear to be related to the phases of the moon -- if anything the number of epileptic seizures was at the lower point during the full moon...."

So why do so many people still think there's a relation?

It's possible when people observe an event and a full moon – they reinforce association and know it's an event…reinforce belief that there's an association there," said Margot.

Dr. Richards had something similar to note.

"When things were extreme someone may have noticed on a particular night when things were extreme and someone noticed there was a full moon and then the story started," said Dr. Richards. "From a healthcare professional standpoint they would say yes indeed, but from an analytical standpoint, maybe not so much."

So, according to several studies...there is no data to suggest ERs are busier during full moons...even if some medical staff may think otherwise. So, if not on a full moon, what are the busiest times?

In Tampa, you have the typical rushes on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. You also see things pick up during Gasparialla. So, when is it least busy? During Buccaneers games on TV. But, Dr. Richards says, as soon as the games are over, they see the number of patients in ER start to pick up.