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Study finds young surgeons easily distracted

According to a recent study, young surgeons are more vulnerable to distractions and disruptions in the operating room, including noise and conversation. This can cause inexperienced surgeons to make serious and grave surgical mistakes in New York hospitals and nationwide.

Researchers have found that 44 percent of surgeons aged 27 to 35 made a significant mistake when they were distracted during simulated operations. Though the sample size was small (18 residents) the results could indicate that patients may be at risk of negligence or mistake during surgery.

To test the students, the researchers used a virtual reality simulator of a minimally invasive gall-bladder removal operation. This procedure requires significant skill and concentration.

Simulated operations tracked the focus and ability of surgeons when a cell phone rang or if a tray fell to the floor. Most of the mistakes occurred when the surgeons were asked about problems developing with another patient while performing surgery. Other distractions included casual discussions about politics or other conversations. This recent study concluded that surgeons who were tested on these types of distractions fared worse in the afternoon. In many of the cases, the mistakes were serious or fatal, resulting in damage to organs or injuries to ducts and arteries.

The authors of the study concluded that the younger surgeons can be dangerous when distracted in the operating room. Though the problem may be severe, the revelation is giving medical teaching institutions the opportunity to train surgeons and hospitals to prevent distractions in the operating room. The test was performed on surgical residents but compared the results to older and experienced surgeons. Older surgeons agreed with the results, stating that you must learn to deal with distractions over the course of practice.

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