Surgical “Black Box” Could Help Reduce Surgical Errors
Published on August 8, 2015
Researchers in Canada are working on a surgical “black box” – like the ones placed in airplanes – that would record surgeons’ movements and identify surgical errors. Inside the operating room, video cameras would track every movement while a small computer-like device analyzes the recordings, identifies mistakes, and provides instant feedback to surgeons as they operate. The goal: to reduce post-operative complications, to allow surgeons to improve technique, to protect patients, and to prevent surgical errors.
The multi-faceted system includes the actual box, operating room microphones, and cameras that record the surgery, the surgeon’s movements and details about team dynamics. Eventually, researchers hope the box can assess everything from how surgeons stitch to how delicately they handle organs and communicate with nurses during stressful situations.
So far, the box has been tested on roughly 40 patients during laparoscopic weight-loss surgery. Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, a minimally invasive surgeon in Toronto who is heading the study, says during the initial stages they’re analyzing surgeries to determine how many errors occur and which ones will actually lead to patient complications. Initial research has shown that surgeons recognize few of the mistakes they make, and, on average, make about 20 errors per surgery – regardless of experience level.
Dr. Grantcharov and his team are currently researching which errors affect patient safety and once established, they plan to provide this information in real time. The team also developed software that takes the recorded data and translates it into user-friendly information for surgeons.
The black box isn’t considered a medical device and, because of this, does not require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, if doctors and hospitals accept it, implementation could happen rather quickly in the U.S.
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