Could A 'Black Box' In The Operating Room Prevent Errors?

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The decision to undergo a surgical procedure is often a difficult one for people to make. There is good reason for this. There is always the chance that something could go wrong during the course of a surgery that could result in a serious injury, or even the death, of the patient.

When the problems are due to negligence on the part of the surgeon or other person in the operating room, the injured patient or the family of the deceased person could take legal action. Following a mistake in the operating room it can take some time to figure out what went wrong.

A device that is being used in Toronto at St. Michael's Hospital, aims to help with that. Designed by a staff surgeon at the hospital, the "black box" is modelled after those utilized in airplanes. The tissue sized box records the following:

  • Images from the laparoscopic camera
  • Physiologic details of the patient
  • Conversations between members of a surgical team
  • The temperature and decibel levels in the room
  • A gallery view of the operating theatre

Currently the box is being used to record laparoscopic surgeries. Its creator views it as a teaching tool. In addition to information about technique, room disruptions, safety processes and communication taking place in the operating room can be studied.

It is possible that reviewing these factors could result in safer surgeries. Thus far information collected by the black box has not been used in a legal case. Hopefully its use will help prevent mistakes that could lead to legal action from occurring.



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