Black Box Could Decrease Surgery Complications

Researchers in Canada are working on a surgical tracking box, similar to the black boxes used to record the final events of an airplane, according to CNN.com. Rather than being used to analyze a disaster after it occurs, the surgical black box will be used to prevent surgical errors before they occur.

During the last 20 years, 80,000 “never events” – surgical errors that should not have happened– occurred in American hospitals, according to Johns Hopkins Researchers.

Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, a minimally invasive surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, was inspired to develop the surgical black box after years of witnessing the effects of surgical complications. He explained to CNN that the black box will decrease the number of complications from surgery by pinpointing mistakes and informing surgeons when they are veering off course.

The multifaceted black box which includes error-analysis software, operating room microphones and cameras to record surgery, will allow surgeons to hone in on exactly what went wrong during surgery and why.

According to Grantcharov’s initial research, surgeons recognize few of their own mistakes, and make an average of 20 errors per surgery. Some surgical errors can be minor and corrected without injury to the patient, but more serious surgical mistakes can lead to serious injury and could be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Grantcharov hopes the black box team will be able to determine which errors affect patient safety and inform the surgeons in real time.

The black box may decrease medical malpractice lawsuits arising from surgery complications, but Grantcharov warns that if the records are used in court, they could open the floodgates to new medical malpractice concerns, which would be counterproductive.

“We have to ensure the black box is used as an educational tool to help surgeons evaluate their performance and improve.” Grantcharov says.

William McMurry, president of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys believes the black box is a “win-win situation” and will provide doctors with the information they need to avoid surgical mistakes.

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