Distractions in operating room may result in more errors

Anyone who has faced or has been around a family member about to undergo a surgical procedure knows the anxiety the patient and the family may feel. Patients and their families expect that the surgeon has experience with the procedure, and operating room staff is well-rested and will not lose concentration or be distracted during the procedure. However, according to a new study, distraction and disruptions in the OR and inexperience can cause surgeons to make surgical errors.

New Jersey residents will find it interesting to know that researchers found that during a simulated operation, young surgeons, between the ages of 27-35, made more mistakes. Some of the distractions and disruptions included a cell phone ringing in the OR, a tray falling and the surgeon being asked questions during the procedure about another patient and their complications. Even a casual conversation during the procedure was distracting enough for the surgeons to make a serious mistake. Further, the potential for errors was worse in the afternoon. The surgical errors ranged from serious to fatal and could have resulted in damage and injuries to major arteries and organs.

Thankfully, this study used a virtual reality stimulator and no actual harm to patients occurred. The study further cautioned that even though the younger, inexperienced surgeons erred more, older and more experienced surgeons are not immune to the same distraction and disruptions.

These findings raise serious questions and concerns about patient safety. In general, healthcare providers have an ongoing duty to provide a reasonable standard of care. If actual harm were to result to a patient because a doctor, surgeon or nurse was negligent or failed to provide reasonable care under the circumstance, that healthcare provider may be held liable for injuries. Suffering permanent injuries to one’s organ because a surgeon was distracted by a ringing cell phone is not an acceptable standard of care.

Patients and families of patients harmed by a negligent surgeon may be able to recover damages such as future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity and more. Each case is different and it is important get all facts early on.

Source: WSFA, “Young surgeons may be easily distracted,” Dec. 5, 2012