Study: Young surgeons are prone to distraction while operating

Friday December 7, 2012

A new study has found that new, inexperienced surgeons may be more prone to distractions in the operating room. Needless to say, this distractibility causes surgeons to make surgical errors that result in serious harm to their patients. Although the study was small, it will hopefully spark additional research and, hopefully, meaningful change in how young surgeons receive and handle distraction while operating on patients.

In the study, researchers asked 18 surgeons, all of whom were second-, third- and research-year surgical residents, to perform a minimally invasive gall bladder removal surgery using a virtual reality simulator. That procedure was chosen because it requires a great deal of concentration and skill.

During key moments of the gall bladder procedure, researchers made a cell phone ring or dropped a tray on the floor. Although those distractions caused some errors, the largest number of mistakes occurred when other hospital staff came in the operating room to ask the surgeons questions about other patients. In addition, “sidebar” conversations about unrelated topics while the surgeon was answering patient questions also caused a large number of errors.

Although the study did not compare more tenured surgical staff, the pervasive belief is that older, more experienced surgeons do not encounter the same distraction issues. Researchers believe the reason for this is simply because they are better at ignoring or working through disruptions. “It appears working through interruptions is something you learn how to deal with,” one researcher said, “and in the beginning you might not deal with them very well.”

Source: iVillage, “Young Surgeons May Be Easily Distracted,” Dec. 4, 2012

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