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How do surgeons perform under stress?

Do you know anyone who enjoys being in hospitals? Unless you know a clinician who loves her or his job, you probably do not. That is usually because times spent in hospitals are among the most stressful that patients and their families can experience. Apparently, the stress can get to the people who work there as well.

What is the effect of stress on doctors?

As it is for most professions, stress and the factors that cause it can lead to poor decision making and skewed perspectives on tasks and responsibilities. A study involving a surgeon at a busy U.S. medical center used electrocardiogram data to measure perceived stress through various operations. It appeared that surgical errors can be more common in periods of high stress.

How did researchers reach that conclusion?

Stress accelerates the heart, a condition known as tachycardia. When records of heart rate were compared to videos of surgical procedures in the operation room (OR), the surgeon made up to 66% more errors at times that the surgeon's heart approached tachycardia. "If our study helps make the OR a safer place for patients, I'd be thrilled," said a researcher involved in the study."

What are the effects of surgical errors?

The effects can vary from general pain to the loss of a sensory organ's functions, and symptoms may not appear until days or weeks after an error is made by a surgeon. An attorney may be a good ally in the investigation of a medical mistake and the process of getting financial damages to help with recovery.

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