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Study shows stress contributes to surgical errors

Most Michigan residents trust their doctors. However, they may not realize that medical errors cause up to 440,000 deaths a year, with a number of them occurring during medical procedures. While some of these deaths and other injuries are caused by egregious errors, such as operating on the wrong body part or leaving surgical instruments inside of a patient, a recent study found that even short-term stress can significantly increase the risk of a surgical error that could leave a patient seriously harmed or dead.

The study was conducted by utilizing a smart shirt that collected a surgeon's physiological data, including those pertaining to his heart's electrical impulses during operations. A researcher then sat in on those operations to identify distractions and surgical errors. The results found that the surgeon was 66 percent more likely to commit a surgical error when under short-term stress.

The researcher made it a point to identify the numerous distractions that can be found in the operating room, all of which can contribute to a surgeon's stress. Certain medical equipment may malfunction and require a prompt response to repair. Other factors can invoke stress, such as monitoring devices emitting sound without notice, medical professionals engaging in a variety of conversations at the same time and numerous individuals can enter and exit the operating room throughout the procedure. Each one of these distractions can contribute to a surgical error, but none of them is excusable when a patient is left injured.

So what does this mean for patients who have been harmed by a surgical error? It means that they need to gather as much information as possible when considering whether to pursue legal action. If it can be shown that multiple distractions were present in the operating room, then it may buttress an argument that a doctor failed to act with the appropriate level of care. Proving the legal elements of a medical malpractice case can be tough, though, especially when going up against affluent doctors and hospitals. However, aggressive attorneys stand ready to help medical malpractice victims build their cases and present them as persuasively as is possible under the circumstances.

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