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Hospital gossip Study highlights danger of surgeons’ small talk

Could surgeons be better off in silence?

(APA/Helmut Fohringer)

Swiss researchers have shown that the risk of infection after an operation may be increased when surgeons chat on topics unrelated to the procedure at hand.

Surgical specialists at the University Hospital Bern and occupational psychologists from the University of Bern and the University of Neuchâtel found that a surgeon’s level of distraction due to small talk and ambient noise could affect a patient’s risk of post-operative infection.

The researchers looked at communication among surgical team members in 167 abdominal operations between 2010 and 2013. The average length of each operation was 4.6 hours.

While the principal risk factors for post-operative infection were patient condition and the type and length of the operation, the researchers found that auditory distraction could also play a role – especially in the case of “routine” tasks such as stitching wounds.

“A rather routine task, such as suturing, makes it easier to chat,” the researchers said in a statement. “Too much discussion of this kind can be distracting.”

The research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundationexternal link, and has been published in the external linkBritish Journal of Surgeryexternal link. and agencies

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