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One Quarter of All Surgical Errors Caused by Machines

by Fox Van Allen on July 26, 2013

Medical Theater, circa 1900

Jefferson Medical College Operating Theater circa 1900.

From managing diabetes to assisting in emergencies, medical technology is advancing at a rapid pace. More procedures in ERs and operating rooms are being taken over by machines, allowing doctors to perform modern miracles. But can we really trust this technology to keep up alive?

A new study published in journal BMJ Quality & Safety suggests that the increasing role of technology in operations is increasing the rate of surgical errors. Researchers found that 15 errors will be made during the average operation, with equipment failure being responsible for 24% of them.

The good news is that doctors and staff can do a lot to reduce these failures of technology with more training. The study recommends that equipment checks be added to the World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist. Problems with configuration and settings currently represent about 44% of equipment failures.

Of course, these errors are unavoidable to some extent. According to the report, "The increasing use of technology in all surgical specialties may also increase the complexity of the surgical process, and may represent an increasing propensity to error from equipment failure."

The full study, Surgical technology and operating-room safety failures: a systematic review of quantitative studies, is available on the BMJ Quality & Safety website.


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