Can a Black Box in Surgery Prevent Errors in the Operating Room?

surgeon.jpgCan an import from Canada one day help prevent surgical errors and save lives in the United States?

A Toronto surgeon has invented a surgical “black box” – a device to record surgeries that operating teams can review and learn from. Similar in purpose to black boxes on airplanes, this black box is designed for determining what went wrong during surgery.

The technology currently is used only for laparoscopic surgeries, which are minimally invasive procedures employing a miniature video camera and surgical tools inserted into the patient’s body through a small incision. The operating room black box captures surgeons’ conversations with their teams as well as visually records the entire OR experience and the surgical camera feed.

According to the surgeon, his goal is to use the black box as a teaching tool. After each procedure a team of surgeons revisit the surgery, much like professional athletes use film study after games in an effort to improve their skills.

The device has already proven its worth. In its initial use it recorded 80 gastric bypass surgeries. Of all the errors recorded, 86 percent were made when grafting the bowel or in suturing. So surgeons now know to particularly focus on these steps.

The black box is being used on a trial basis in one Canadian hospital but is scheduled for testing in Denmark, and reportedly may be tested in some U.S. hospitals. The surgeon’s long-term desire is to get it into hospitals around the world for all types of surgical procedures.

Unfortunately, the purpose behind the operating room black box is counter to current culture in many U.S. hospitals, where reviews by staff occur only after a patient has suffered harm. These closed internal investigations can offer challenges to patients who’ve been victims of medical malpractice or hospital negligence and deserve justice.

Therefore, those who suffer from catastrophic medical errors may want to contact an attorney who’s experienced in conducting investigations into matters of medical malpractice or surgical error.