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Surgeons under stress make more mistakes

Even brief periods of stress over trivial matters can have an effect on a Florida surgeon's performance in the operating room. The findings of a new Columbia University study show the negative effects that stress can have on doctors during surgery. Researchers found that when surgeons are under stress, they are much more likely to make mistakes.

The study was conducted by having a surgeon wear a "smart shirt," a high-tech device that monitors heart rate and electrical impulses from the heart. This shirt was worn under the scrubs of a doctor while he performed 25 different operations, most of which were gastric bypass surgeries. By monitoring the length between heartbeats, the researchers determined when the surgeon was experiencing periods of increased stress.

An additional researcher stayed in the operating room and documented the precise time that each surgical mistake occurred. By comparing the results from both the shirt and the noted mistakes, researchers discovered that increased stress led to a 66 percent increase in the likelihood of a medical error. This amount of stress could be as trivial as loud noise from a machine or a side conversation among medical residents. Researchers hope the findings lead to safer operating rooms where fewer mistakes are made during surgery.

In the United States, it is believed that surgical errors cause between 250,000 and 400,000 deaths every year. Medical malpractice errors range from leaving a surgical device in a patient to operating on the wrong part of the body. Surgeons and hospitals have the responsibility to perform operations properly. If a patient is harmed by a negligent health care provider, a lawyer could help file a malpractice claim that will hold the at-fault parties responsible.

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