The effect of stress-inducing conditions on the performance of a laparoscopic task

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The availability of objective means for assessment of surgical skills has made it possible to evaluate the effect of adverse environmental conditions on surgical performance.


Participants performed a laparoscopic transfer task under five conditions: a simple verbal mathematical task (M), operating theatre background noise at 80 to 85 dB (N), performance as quickly as possible (T), all three stressors combined (A), and quiet conditions (Q). The effect of these conditions on performance was evaluated by using a motion analysis system and an error score.


The study included 13 right-handed surgeons with varying levels of laparoscopic experience. There was a significant increase in the path length per movement of the right hand (p = 0.001) under T and a significant increase in the path length per movement of the left hand under M (p = 0.002), T (p = 0.0l), and A (p = 0.02). A significantly higher number of errors occurred under all four stress-inducing conditions. The effect was more pronounced when all the stressors were applied in combination (p = 0.001) followed by performance under M (p = 0.005), then T (p = 0.01) and N (p = 0.03).


All three stressors led to impaired dexterity and an increase in the incidence of errors.

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