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Technical issues can cause or worsen surgical errors

The Emergency Care Research Institute ranks technology health hazards on an annual basis, and the 2013 list shows that technology and technical processes can be the source of serious injury in the operating room. From infection control to tired staff, technical processes in facilities in Ohio and through the nation need to be reviewed to reduce the chance of surgical errors.

Number one on the ECRI's hazard list were alarms. Medical alarms require available staff to respond to a patient who is in danger or coding. The ECRI's report found that alarms are sometimes used at inappropriate times or that the alarm situation could have been prevented by earlier medical care. Either way, a high number of alarms tires staff out and increases the chance that negligent operating room staff might make a mistake.

Another issue on the ECRI list has to do with the growing use of technology in operating room procedures. Both robotics and hybrid operating rooms are listed as top-10 risks. The ECRI notes that improper use of medical equipment can occur when doctors, nurses or other healthcare staff are not fully trained to use complex machinery or tools.

Ohio residents may be interested to know that not everything on the ECRI's list is extremely complicated. Number six on the list has to do with reprocessing surgical scopes and instruments. Improper reprocessing fails to leave the instruments fully sanitized, which could introduce infection into the next patient to undergo surgery.

In determining the cause of surgical errors, it's important to look at the big picture. Injury or damage may not be introduced by something as obvious as surgical equipment left inside the patient. This means that complete, expert recreation and research are sometimes required to pinpoint exact issues. Health care professionals and the facilities in which they work can and should be held legally responsible for errors that cause injury or worse.

Source:, "Inadequate Reprocessing of Surgical Instruments on ECRI's Annual Health Technology Hazards List" No Author Given, Nov. 19, 2013

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