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Music in the OR can be a source of distraction, potential errors

Many employees in Maryland enjoy listening to some music while working. Music can be a great tool to help filter out the buzz of chatty coworkers, help an employee get into a rhythm and help an employee remain relaxed through the workday.

What if that employee is a surgeon? When going under the knife, most patients would not report hoping that their surgeon is tuned out to surrounding staff and relaxed. However, operating rooms can have a cacophony of sounds. There are expected sounds like beeping machines and communicating nurses, but then there are noises that may seem more distracting like ringing cell phones and background music.

There is debate in the medical community about music etiquette in the operating room. Some think that music can help keep a team focused, but others argue it’s a distraction. Distractions in the operating room are a real risk that can lead to dangerous, even deadly surgical errors. A group of researchers at University of Kentucky Medical Center wanted more data on this unanswered debated so they devised a study. Surgeons were tested on word comprehension and feedback performance both during and not during a surgical procedure when:

  • In a quiet environment
  • In an environment where noise was filtered through a surgical mask
  • In an environment with background noise endemic to an operating room
  • In an environment with background noise endemic to an operating room and music

The results yield that music did not typically keep surgeons focused. Instead, music was found to be a substantial barrier to comprehension when the doctor was performing surgery. The results of this were published recently in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Sometimes victims in Maryland are harmed by circumstances that really were difficult to avoid, and other times victims are harmed by negligence. If an individual is injured because their surgeon was distracted, there can in some in stances be financial recourse.

Source:, “From ringing phones to sleep deprivation: Distractions increase surgeons' potential for mistakes,” Lee Bowman, May 15, 2013

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