Distractions in the Obstetric Operating Room [27F]

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Distractions in the operating room are common. The frequency and impact of distractions during obstetric surgery is unknown. According to JACHO and HRO, distractions are an important cause of mistakes in medicine. Persoon et al reported distractions occurred at a rate of one event every 1.8 minutes during endo urological procedures at a teaching hospital in the Netherlands. Our goal was characterize the type and frequency of distractions in obstetric surgery at our institution.


Obstetric surgeries were observed at a community teaching hospital in suburban New Jersey. A researcher recorded all observed distractions during cesarean sections using a study design validated by Persoon et al. Distractions were categorized by severity, based on how distracting they were to the surgeons.


23 operations were observed. Mean operating time was 47 ±16minutes (range 32-78 minutes). Average distractions per case was 57±16 (range 21-85). Potentially distracting events occurred every 54 ± 23 seconds (range 29-113). There were 3 distracting events that caused one of the surgeons to stop what they were doing to engage entirely with the distracting stimuli — twice for phone calls, and once for conversation related to another patient.


Distractions appear to be twice as common in obstetric surgery versus the rate reported during endo urologic procedures. While no obvious adverse events were observed in this small study, the frequency, characterization and impact of distractions in obstetric surgery warrant further study.

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