A recent study sheds some disturbing light on the occurrence of medical malpractice during surgery. The study focused on how young surgeons react to environmental distractions while performing a procedure. Study results were revealed in the Archives of Surgery online publications during mid-July of 2012.
Researchers studied young surgeons in training who were working on surgical simulations rather than actual patients. Although the researchers feel the data is significant, they do not believe that it is a precise model of the errors made in operating rooms. They draw this distinction between reality and a simulated study on the premise that distractions in their study were purposefully introduced at the most critical points of the operation whereas in real life a distraction could occur anytime. Thus the error results tracked may be an exaggerated representation of the effects produced by distractions in the operating room.
All caveats aside, the study results show that surgeons exposed to distraction during a procedure are eight times more likely to commit errors. And not just run of the mill accidents, but full-blown serious errors. Surgical errors are definitely a cause for concern because patient safety is put on the line when the surgeon makes a mistake.
Surgery is stressful enough without worrying about the state of mind your surgeon will be in when you go under anesthesia. Patients who become victims of medical malpractice via a surgical error are likely to be plagued by anxiety and fear for future procedures.
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The types of distractions introduced in this study varied from those generally seen in operating rooms, to others invented by researchers solely for the purpose of this study. Researchers settled on four distractions after observing real operating rooms over the course of nine months; unexpected movement by an observer, cell phone noise from an observer, spontaneous conversation between observers, and the noise produced when a metal tray suddenly dropped. Two fabricated distractions were interruption by a nurse asking a question about a recovering patient, and conversational disruption asking the surgeon a question about their career choice.
Out of a total of eighteen test surgeries with distractions, eight of the surgeons made major surgical errors. In contrast, of the eighteen uninterrupted control procedures, only one surgeon made an error. Interestingly the sample group of surgeons included a range of students that were 2nd year, 3rd year and final year students in their respective fields. Despite differing levels of education and experience across these groups, all students experienced errors by distraction at approximately the same rate. This sort of statistic suggests that perhaps the ability to work through distractions does not significantly improve over time.
Obviously this study can teach us that medical facilities need to do their best to minimize the number of possible distractions surgeons encounter. Based on the fact that many of the distractions came from observers of the procedure, it might be important for the medical field to consider amending rules or regulations for behavior during an observation. Whatever the outcome may be in light of this study, it is never acceptable for a patient to become the victim of a haphazard surgeon.
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If you or a loved one is injured in the course of a surgery it may be possible for you to get compensation for your injuries. Our Pintas & Mullins Law Firm legal team has years of experience in the realm of surgical mistakes and medical malpractice. We can assist you in fully investigating and pursuing the available remedies for your injury.