Operating Room Mistakes: Physician Error Caused By Distraction
Surgery residents committed eight times as many operating room mistakes during simulated procedures when realistic distractions and interruptions were introduced, according to Medpage Today.
Surgical residents performed a simulated laparoscopic cholesytecomy in the experiment. They committed significantly more surgical errors when distractions and interruptions were introduced than during an uninterrupted procedure. When the procedures were uninterrupted, only one of 18 operations had a mistake. Distraction affected memory as well in the experiment. More than half of the residents in the study forgot a key memory task related to the surgery when they were interrupted.
However, it is important to note that these results were not an indicative representative sample of operating-room experiences in general. The survey was completed with novice surgeons and a smaller pool of participants. The distractions in the study were also timed to occur at critical points and much more frequently during the simulated study than what would actually occur in a live operating room.
Regardless, the information allows insight in to the nature of OR mistakes, and can help set up benchmarks on how to prevent them. Previously, there has been little research on the effect of distractions and interruptions in surgery.
Distractions included unexpected movement by an observer, a ringing cell phone answered in the OR, an unrelated conversation between an observer and a third party, and noise from dropping a metal tray. Measures of fatigue had no association with surgical errors- overall, the distractions were things that were largely preventable.
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