Timothy J. Casey Attorney at Law
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Study shows how short-term stress leads to surgical errors

Before undergoing surgery, Arizona residents should know about the widespread problem of stress among doctors. Researchers at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University found that short-term stress can raise the risk for surgical errors by as much as 66 percent.

For the study, researchers had a surgeon wear a Hexoskin Smart Shirt under his scrubs as he performed several procedures. The smart shirt, designed for athletes during their workouts, recorded electrical impulses from the heat and allowed researchers to determine momentary stress levels based on heart-rate variability statistics.

These stress levels were time-stamped and correlated with the mistakes detected through the video recordings. Short-term stress can arise from any number of things -- people walking in and out of the OR, side conversations, equipment malfunctioning, alarms going off and so on. Though brief, stress could contribute to serious errors that result in bleeding, ripped tissue or burns on the part of patients.

Every year in the U.S., between 250,000 and 400,000 die from medical errors, a great part of them surgical errors. An earlier study from Loyola Medicine asserts that doctors should be taught to improve their emotional intelligence skills. This can help them better manage stress, prevent burnout and thus prevent errors. More research will be necessary, however, especially regarding the causes of doctors' stress.

A stressed doctor can be a negligent doctor. If someone incurs a medical injury caused by negligence, legal action may be warranted. A lawyer could bring in investigators, medical experts and other third parties to build up a case with the necessary evidence. Ultimately, the plaintiff's settlement may cover past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.

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