Stressed surgeon makes up to 66% more mistakes, study finds

Surgeons who are stressed out in the operating room may make up to 66 percent more errors, according to a study published in the British Journal of Surgery.

For the study, researchers analyzed continuous electrocardiogram data from an attending surgeon at Stanford (Calif.) Medical Center. The surgeon wore a Hexoskin Smart Shirt under his scrubs during surgery, which measures electrical impulses that stimulate heart beats. Researchers used this data to assess the variation in time between heartbeats to determine the surgeon's stress levels. They also collected laparoscopic video recordings in the operating room to identify surgical mistakes.

The surgeon made up to 66 percent more surgical errors during periods of high stress compared to lower stress intervals.  

"I was surprised by that, as well as by the amount of distractions in the operating room," lead study author Peter Dupont Grantcharov, a master's student at the Data Science Institute at New York City-based Columbia University, said in a press release. "My hope is that other researchers will build upon our work to make further strides in learning about the causes of stress on surgical personnel. If our study helps make the OR a safer place for patients, I'd be thrilled."

Editor's note: This article was updated Dec. 20 at 8:50 a.m. to further clarify the study's methods. 

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