Surgeons make significantly more mistakes when under acute stress


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Noticias Médicas Univadis
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Surgeons could make up to 66 per cent more mistakes in the operating room when under acute stress, according to research published in BJS Open

Researchers used wearable technology to investigate the association between acute intraoperative mental stress and surgical performance. Continuous electrocardiogram data was captured for a single surgeon during surgical procedures to obtain heart rate variability (HRV) measures that were used as a proxy for acute mental stress, while technical surgical performance was assessed using the Generic Error Rating Tool (GERT). Data were measured in non‐overlapping intervals of one, two and five minutes. 

The study found that rates of events were 47-66 per cent higher in the higher stress quantiles than in the lower stress quantiles. 

The authors suggested the true relationship between acute mental stress and surgical performance may be even more pronounced than found in the study. They said further research should explore methods which “diminish the occurrence, severity and potential consequences of this unavoidable phenomenon of surgical stress.” They said additional research is also needed to “gauge more precisely the triggers for increased stress, their individual effects on surgical performance, and the severity of this relationship".