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Are surgical black boxes part of California's medical future?

Surgery is a nuanced undertaking. While unblocking an artery or removing a brain tumor, surgeons must have careful hands and utterly precise movements. A slight slip of the hand or a wrong movement can prove fatal for a patient. As California patients know, things do and can go wrong during surgery. Determining what went wrong and how it went wrong is critical, but for a patient who is under anesthesia, it can be impossible to know exactly what type of trauma transpired during his or her surgery.

A new technology developed at the University of Toronto may be changing that. The surgical black box, much like the black boxes used in airplanes, is intended to help identify and clarify what went wrong. In the context of surgical errors, this new type of black box is intended to track the actions of a surgeon and record possible errors. Ideally, this type of device can help identify a surgeon's mistake via the collection of data from the surgical procedure.

The device is not yet widely used nationwide, though some hospitals have shown interest in an increased use of the device. The interest in surgical black boxes reflects the interest patients have in fully understanding what transpired during their surgeries, as well as that of hospitals in trying to identify the behavior of potentially negligent operating room staff. When a patient emerges from surgery with an inexplicably worsened condition, the surgical black box may be able to help reveal what went wrong.

Black boxes may be more widely used in the future, but in the meantime, if a patient has suffered an injury due to surgical error, he or she may wish to consult with an attorney to discuss options for potential legal recovery.

Source: The National Law Review, "Are Recorded Surgeries the Future of Medical Malpractice Investigation and Medical Error Prevention?," Michael C. Ksiazek, written July 29, 2015, accessed Aug. 28, 2015

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