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Smart Shirt, Real-World Data Shine Light on Surgeon Stress


There was a trend for an increasing rate of surgical events with increasing stress levels, according to the study.

stress monitor

Using real-world data generated through a smart shirt, researchers found that stressful moments in the operating room caused surgeons to make up to 66 percent more mistakes on patients, according to a study.

Study lead Peter Dupont Grantcharov, a graduate student at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University, used the wireless Hexoskin Smart Shirt to collect physiological data that measured the stress of surgeons during each surgical procedure. The team analyzed how events such as loud noises, alarms and other disruptions might affect surgical performance.

The shirt has built-in sensors that capture electrocardiogram data, acceleration data and breathing data. Data are directly downloadable from the clothing to an online portal with exact timestamps.

Video recordings of the procedures were taken and time-stamped, which allowed researchers to compare the shirt data with what was happening during the surgery.

The researchers developed software to derive heart-rate variability statistics from ECG data files, process the surgical performance data and synchronize all data streams into the prespecified time intervals.

Data were captured for gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy and peroral endoscopic myotomy with a mean duration of almost 97 minutes for all procedures. The mean number of events per procedure was almost 24.

Stress trends were studied over intervals of one, two or five minutes. For all intervals there was a trend for an increasing rate of surgical events with increasing stress levels.

Researchers found that during intervals of short-term stress, which can be triggered by equipment malfunctions, machine alarms going off or a negative thought, surgeons are more prone to make mistakes that can cause bleeding, torn tissue or burns.

“There is an association between measures of acute mental stress and worse technical surgical performance,” the researchers wrote. “Further study will help delineate the interdependence of these variables and identify triggers for increased stress levels to improve surgical safety.”

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