Article published by : Max Health on Thursday, November 01, 2012

Category : General Health

Study Finds Connection Between Interruptions and Surgical Errors

A new study by researchers at Oregon State University found that interruptions and distractions in the operating room lead to serious surgical errors among novice surgeons. This finding poses a grave threat to the health of surgery patients who may be seriously injured by distracted or interrupted surgeons.

The Oregon State Surgical Error Study

The Oregon State University study used a surgery simulation program to record the surgical errors of novice surgeons when they were interrupted or distracted during an operation. The surgeons were in their second, third or fourth research years of residency and were put through two simulated laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures--one with distractions or interruptions and one without them. Operating room distractions and interruptions, or ORDIs, used in the simulation included a cell phone ringing, the unexpected movement of a surgical assistant in the peripheral of surgeon's vision, the noise of an instrument dropped on a metal tray and two questions.

The results were quite alarming. Of the 18 studied surgical residents, eight made a serious error in the simulated operation with distractions. This means they injured the simulated patient's internal organs, ducts or arteries. Only one surgeon made a serious error in the simulated operation without ORDIs. All the errors made by the surgeons occurred after 1 p.m., which may indicate fatigue is a factor in surgical errors, too.

How Surgical Errors Can Harm Patients

In 2000, the Institute of Medicine published the groundbreaking book To Err Is Human, which gathered data on medical errors of all types and spurred the discussion of patient safety and the implementation of protocol and training that help improve safety at health care facilities. The study found that medical errors, including surgical errors, are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., though most are preventable.

Surgeon distractions can have an effect before the patient even reaches the operating table. Surgeons subject to numerous distractions and interruptions may misread surgical instructions that specify the surgical site, leading to a major medical error like operating on the incorrect body part.

As the study shows, distractions and interruptions may cause serious injury to patients once they are under. Injuries to internal organs and major arteries can have a profound effect on the health and safety of a patient, and may even put their lives in peril.

Surgeons Can Be Held Liable for Their Surgical Errors

Fortunately, injured patients can hold their surgeons responsible for the errors they commit during an operation. Surgeons may be held liable for their negligence that causes the injury, meaning that the surgeon did not take reasonable care in performing the surgery that most other surgeons would have. Depending on the severity of their injuries, affected patients may be able to hold their surgeons responsible for gross negligence if their behavior was clearly reckless.

The Oregon State University study highlights a persistent problem in the health care industry: the prevalence of injuries due to distracted health care professionals. If an interruption or distraction of your physician or surgeon caused your injuries, please contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

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By: Max Health

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