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Study shows serious surgical errors can occur from distractions

When you undergo a surgical procedure, you are essentially putting your life in the hands of your surgeon, regardless of how minor the procedure may be. You trust the surgeon to pay attention to what they are doing and use good judgment.

However, a recently published study shows that young surgeons struggle with distraction in the surgery room. Researchers studied 18 surgical residents, testing them with distractions that included phones ringing and conversations concerning a different surgical patient or a topic completely unrelated to medicine. The results of the study show that serious surgical errors are made by 44 percent of young surgeons when distractions occur.

Surgeon mistakes can be fatal to a patient, stemming from issues such as medical equipment left inside a patient, permanent damage to organs or other serious injury. In the study, the young surgeons used a virtual simulation of the removal of a gall bladder. Researchers found that in addition to distractions contributing to surgical errors, surgeons who perform procedures during afternoon hours actually had more problems. These surgeons made mistakes that could result in a real patient's death.

While distractions can affect anyone, it is the responsibility of surgeons to make sure that they stay focused throughout a surgical procedure. If a surgeon is extremely tired or has worked an extra-long shift, it would be in the best interest of their patients to reschedule the procedure instead of taking the chance of causing fatal surgical errors. Hopefully surgeons will be able to learn from this study and make a more concerted effort to remain focused during operation procedures.

Source: WFSA-TV, "Young surgeons may be easily distracted," Dec. 5, 2012

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