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Risk of Surgical Infection Rises with OR Noise Levels

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, June 23, 2011

The Berne study is already making its rounds via the Internet, in particular on medical malpractice lawyers' websites. It has also prompted commentary in the British Journal of Surgery from Ara Darzi, MD, of the Division of Surgery at the Imperial College of London.

Darzi notes that much of the research so far on noise, operating room performance and surgical outcomes has been done "in simulated environments, and real clinical implications have been demonstrated infrequently.

"[This study] investigates a stressor that all surgeons face, that of noise in the operating theatre. Whether this be in the form of a pertinent and welcome discussion, a perhaps unnecessary conversation, or a purely extraneous distraction, it stands to reason that noisy surgical environments distract the surgeon from what is a complex task."

It should be noted that Beldi's research came because he was not afraid to ask a simple question. And it didn't cost a lot of money to explore his hypothesis.

A lot of quality initiatives require money and resources, but here's one strategy that doesn't. How about giving it a try in your operating rooms just to see if it might make a difference in your surgical site infection rate, and perhaps other medical mishaps as well.

What harm could it do?

See Also:
Top 10 Infection Control Challenges
For Infection Prevention, Try Duct Tape
Infection Prevention Pilot Slashes CLABSI by 35%
CDC, NIH Revise Bloodstream Infection Prevention Guidelines
Private ICU Rooms Slash HAI Rates by Half

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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