Surgeons' ages may reveal how well they deal with distraction

When many people in upstate New York go to the hospital for surgery, they may not ask about a surgeon's age, but his or her age could determine how well he or she stays focused in the operating room. A new study published in the Archives of Surgery found that surgeons between the ages of 27 and 35 had high rates of distraction in the operating room and that distraction was likely to lead to a significant mistake.

In fact, 44 percent of surgeons who were distracted during a simulated gall-bladder removal caused some kind of serious mistake. Some of the surgical errors were fatal and many caused damage to organs, arteries and other parts of the body. It is unknown if these figures correspond to real-life surgical mistakes, but if they do there are a considerable number of patients' whose lives and well-being depend on whether the operating room is quiet enough for the surgeon to concentrate.

It is certainly devastating to learn that long-term pain and suffering, physical disfigurement or loss of life can be caused by a small distraction, but surgical errors can also be compensated for in medical malpractice lawsuits. By working closely with a medical malpractice lawyer, a patient can gather evidence of distraction and that the surgeon's actions fell outside of generally-accepted medical treatment, causing an injury. The money that a jury awards can then be used to ameliorate the patient's condition as best as possible and provide for any future medical care, as needed.

Researchers chose a complicated procedure that required considerable concentration and skill, but during important moments in the procedure, someone would drop a tray or a cellphone would ring. The distraction that caused the most problems, however, was when someone would ask a surgeon questions about another patient.

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

You can find out more about the work we have done for New Yorkers who were injured by surgical errors by visiting our website.

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