Surgical 'black box' could reduce errors

Researchers in Canada have created a surgical "black box" that tracks surgeons' movements during an operation.

Story highlights

  • "Black box" would record surgeons' movements and identify errors in real time
  • Surgical black box could be used to prevent major patient complications
  • Doctors and lawyers debate whether recordings would be used in malpractice lawsuits
Inside the operating room, video cameras track every movement. Outside, a small computer-like device analyzes the recordings, identifying when mistakes are made and providing instant feedback to surgeons as they operate.
This is the dream of the surgical "black box." Operations could become flawless. Post-operative complications could be significantly reduced. Surgeons could review the footage to improve their technique and prep for the next big case.
Such a device isn't far from reality.
Researchers in Canada are working on a surgical tracking box -- like the ones placed in airplanes -- that records surgeons' movements and identifies errors during an operation.
By pinpointing mistakes and telling surgeons when they're veering "off course," a black box could prevent future slip-ups, says Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, a minimally invasive surgeon at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. Unlike the so-called black boxes in aviation, which are used after disasters occur, the surgical black box Grantcharov is creating will be used proactively to prevent major patient complications.
A number of hospitals have already expressed interest in using the device, Grantcharov says.