Study Reveals High Risk of Errors by Distracted Young Surgeons

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Our society often equates age with competence – when it comes to surgery and medical malpractice, that may be a fair assumption. A new study from a surgical journal looked at young surgeons and found a disturbingly high rate of serious errors in simulated procedures.

While any surgical error can have catastrophic consequences for a patient, these problems involved significant surgical mistakes such as nicked arteries and vital organs. These results have big medical malpractice implications. Regardless of age, surgeons have an obligation to live up to the standards of the medical profession and this research suggests that they fall dangerously short on a regular basis.

The study looked at surgeons between the ages of 27 and 35. When operating room distractions occurred, 44 percent of the surgeons in this group made big mistakes. For example, the researchers watched the response to ringing phones, falling objects, questions and other interruptions.

The surgeons did not perform very well – in the real world, 44 percent of their patients would have suffered the serious and potentially deadly consequences of these mistakes. The study also noted that this might be a problem for older, more experienced surgeons as well.

On the bright side, this research might allow medical schools to recognize and take steps to train students to avoid these risks. One solution might be requiring even more surgical training in demanding, distraction-filled environments.

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

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