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Bubric KA, Biesbroek SL, Laberge JC, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2021;47:556-562.
Unintentionally retained foreign objects (RFO) following surgery is a never event. In this study, researchers observed 36 surgical procedures to quantify and describe interruptions and distractions present during surgical counting. Interruptions (e.g., the surgeon or another nurse talking to the scrub nurse) and distractions (e.g., music, background noise) were common. Several suggestions to minimize interruptions and distractions during surgical counts are made.
Mcmullan RD, Urwin R, Gates PJ, et al. Int J Qual Health Care. 2021;33:mzab068.
Distractions in the operating room are common and can lead to errors. This systematic review including 27 studies found that distractions, interruptions, and disruptions in the operating room are associated with a range of negative outcomes. These include longer operative duration, impaired team performance, self-reported errors by colleagues, surgical errors, surgical site infections, and fewer patient safety checks.
Gui JL, Nemergut EC, Forkin KT. J Clin Anesth. 2020;68:110110.
Distractions and interruptions are common in health care delivery. This literature review discusses the range of operating room distractions (from common events such as “small talk” to more intense distractions such as unavailable equipment) that can affect anesthesia practice, and their likely impact on patient safety.
Koch A, Burns J, Catchpole K, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2020;29:1033-1045.
This systematic review evaluated the relationships between intraoperative flow disruptions (eg, interruptions, equipment malfunctions, unexpected patient conditions) and provider, surgical process, and patient outcomes. On average, 20.5% of operating time was attributed to flow disruptions and these disruptions were either negatively or not substantially associated with surgical outcomes. The authors observed substantial heterogeneity of the evidence base and provided recommendations for future research on the effects of flow disruptions in surgery.
Joseph A, Khoshkenar A, Taaffe KM, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:276-283.
This direct observation study found that minor disruptions in usual workflow can combine to lead to an adverse event. More than half of the observed disruptions were related to the physical layout of the operating room, suggesting that physical design of operating rooms may affect surgical safety.
Villafranca A, Hamlin C, Enns S, et al. Canadian J Anaesth. 2017;64:128-140.
Disruptive clinician behavior has a negative effect on teamwork that could contribute to patient harm. Examining the literature on disruptive behavior in the operating room, this review identified intrapersonal, organizational, and interpersonal factors that facilitate disruptive conduct and discussed its impact on teams, clinicians, patients, and organizations. The authors recommend strategies to address disruptive behaviors among clinicians such as documenting standards of behavior.
Snoots LR, Wands BA. AANA J. 2016;84:114-119.
Personal electronic devices such as smartphones are now ubiquitous, and many clinicians use them for both work and personal purposes. Although considered a necessity, these devices can serve as a distraction, which could compromise patient safety. This review found that many certified registered nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists acknowledge using personal electronic devices in the operating room despite knowledge of the potential risks. Currently, no formal guidelines exist regarding what constitutes inappropriate use of such devices in the operating room. The authors call for further research in order to develop policies to balance the risks and benefits of personal electronic devices. A WebM&M commentary discusses a case where an interruption due to receiving a text message on a smartphone led to a serious medication error.
Mentis HM, Chellali A, Manser K, et al. Surg Endosc. 2016;30:1713-24.
This systematic review found that equipment and procedural distractions were the most severe distraction events during surgery, but irrelevant conversation and movement were the most frequent. This underscores the need to reduce distractions and incorporate management of distractions into surgical education.
Antoniadis S, Passauer-Baierl S, Baschnegger H, et al. J Surg Res. 2014;188:21-29.
This direct observation study revealed that surgical teams were distracted or interrupted an average of 9.8 times per hour, and these disruptions detracted from interoperative teamwork. Mirroring prior studies, these findings suggest that operating rooms have yet to provide an optimal environment for safe surgery despite efforts to decrease risks.
Feil M. PA-PSRS Patient Saf Advis. June 2014;11:45-52.
Operating rooms are complex environments with particular risks regarding interruptions and distractions. This article draws from data reported to the Patient Safety Authority to explore how distractions affect surgeons and other team members. The author reviews strategies to limit distractions, including applying sterile cockpit principles, performing preoperative briefings, and utilizing checklists.
Sevdalis N, Undre S, McDermott J, et al. World J Surg. 2014;38:751-8.
Researchers performed observations of procedures in operating rooms to examine the effect of distractions on safety. This study revealed that distractions in this setting are prevalent and were frequently linked to omission of intraoperative safety checks. These results are consistent with prior studies of interruptions and patient safety.

Rogers WA, ed. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2011;17(3):191-302.

Articles in this special issue explore the impact of cognition on health care activities such as patient identification, interruptions, and team communication.
Broom MA, Capek AL, Carachi P, et al. Anaesthesia. 2011;66:175-179.
The sterile cockpit rule mandates elimination of nonessential activities during aircraft takeoffs and landings. This study found disturbingly frequent interruptions during analogous phases of anesthesia management, demonstrating the need to develop a similar rule for the operating room.