Distractions in the Operating Room Threaten Patient Safety

Do cell phones and tablets affect communication and concentration?

A resident observing the surgery takes a call on his cell phone. The scrub nurse flips through images of wedding dresses on her smartphone. The operating surgeon’s assistant steps in to ask a question about another patient. The anesthesiologist taps his foot in time to the beat of the music in his earbud. It’s just another day in the operating room (OR).

Recently, AAOS Now editorial board member Michael F. Schafer, MD, assembled a group of surgeons with a particular interest in patient safety to discuss distractions in the OR, their potential impact on patient safety, and steps that can be taken to address the issue. Joining Dr. Schafer were Dwight W. Burney III, MD; William J. Robb III, MD, chair of the AAOS Patient Safety Committee; and Col Daniel W. White, MD, U.S. Army.

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