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Stress increases likelihood of surgeons making mistakes

Georgia surgical patients should hope their surgeons are feeling stress-free at operation time. According to a recent study, surgeons are much more likely to make medical mistakes during a procedure if they are feeling stressed.

For the study, which was conducted at Columbia University, a Stanford Medical Center surgeon wore a "smart shirt" beneath his scrubs for 25 surgeries, most of which were gastric bypasses. The shirt measured the electrical signals from his heart in order to detect signs of stress. At the same time, researchers documented any errors he made during surgeries and the times that they occurred. The study found that he was up to 66 percent more likely to make an error when he was showing signs of stress.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the study was that small incidents were enough to trigger distracting moments of stress for the surgeon. These incidents included negative thoughts, beeping medical monitors, equipment malfunctions, people entering and exiting the operating room and side conversations among colleagues. The authors of the study hope further research will be done to learn more about the causes of stress among surgical staff and how to prevent it. Studies estimate that medical mistakes, including surgical errors, are responsible for between 250,000 and 400,000 deaths in the United States each year. The study was published in the journal BJS Open on Sept. 27, 2018.

The victim of surgical errors might have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon, medical staff and hospital that made the mistake. A lawyer could review the case and determine if a surgeon failed to provide a patient with the standard of care. If there was a failure, the victim could be owed compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other related damages.

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