Technology Issues Cause One Quarter Of Operating Room Errors


Researchers say that one out of every four operating room errors is caused by issues with technology.  Half of these errors could have been prevented if the surgical team had used a simple checklist provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to a study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which is a minimally invasive procedure, was the first surgery that was assisted by the use of technology and was performed in 1987.  Since then, even though the assisted surgeries had had much better surgical results and shorter hospital stays for patients, hand eye coordination of surgeons was compromised and other limitations were created by the video monitor used.  These limitations led to the development of the surgical robot.

What the Research Found
To make their assessment, the researchers analyzed 28 operating room error studies that had been published previously.  They found that almost a quarter of all surgical errors were caused by technological and equipment failures.  Additionally, the analysis found that there was a direct correlation between the number of technologies and other surgical equipment pieces that were used within a given surgery and the number of errors that were reported.  Issues related to technology and equipment appeared in an average of 15.5% of medical malpractice claims.  There was an average of 2.4 errors for each procedure (however, the numbers rose to 15.5 errors when an independent observer was making the recordings).  Nearly a quarter of these errors was accounted for by technology issues.

The Cause of Technology Errors

According to this research, there three main issues that caused the mishaps, including the lack of knowledge or inability to use the equipment by the surgeon and surgeon assistant, the lack of equipment availability, and defective or faulty equipment.  A breakdown of the studies showed:

  • Improper equipment and technology configuration caused 43.4 percent of errors.
  • Unavailability of necessary equipment accounted for 37 percent of errors.
  • Defective or otherwise faulty equipment resulted in nearly 33 percent of errors.

Even though it was found that the errors varied widely depending on the type of surgery, if the surgery was more dependent on technology, there were more errors reported.

Decreasing the Surgical Error Rate

Even though surgical robots have done a lot of good, the researchers of this study have found that nearly 20 percent of the equipment failures sited lead to major surgical issues.  About half of these errors could have been prevented had a checklist, such as the one created by the WHO, been used.

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