Inexperienced doctors performing surgery can all too easily become distracted by a variety of things, resulting in dangerous and even deadly errors. A new study found that such distractions included questions, noises and a variety of other commonplace occurrences. Medical malpractice in the form of significant surgical errors occurred among a full 44 percent of distracted young doctors between the ages of 27 and 35.

The highest number of such mistakes took place when the surgeon was asked a question concerning another patient, such as one for whom a medical problem had just developed or been exacerbated, taking their attention away from the patient currently undergoing an operation. This distraction was often further increased because others in the operating room used the interruption as a good occasion to launch a side conversation among themselves about other subjects, such as television shows, weekend plans or an upcoming election.

Other distractions that led to errors included ringing cellphones in the operating room or incidents such as medical personnel dropping an instrument or tray. The study also revealed that distractions in the afternoon, as opposed to the morning, were even more dangerous, and more frequently led to artery or duct injuries or damage to bodily organs.

The study tested younger surgeons using a virtual reality program which simulated an operation to remove a gallbladder. While such an operation may be “minimally invasive,” relatively speaking, it does require that the surgeon concentrates and utilizes carefully acquired skills, or else the consequences for the patient can be extremely serious.

Older surgeons may also be subject to such distractions interfering with their performance, especially in instances where they are already tired or have been overworked, but those with less experience were generally more susceptible to medical malpractice.

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

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