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Black Box Recorder On Its Way

New surgical tracking device detects errors, provides feedback.

Published: August 25, 2014

Black box recorders are no longer just for airplanes.

A new surgical tracking device that records and analyzes surgeries, immediately alerting doctors of any errors they're making, is currently being developed by researchers in Canada, CNN reports.

The device uses video and audio recorders to track surgeries, relaying information back to a computer-like system that analyzes it for mistakes and provides immediate feedback to the surgeon. Researchers say that that the device could help reduce future patient complications, but some worry about what would happen if the recordings were used in malpractice litigation.

The device is currently being developed to identify specific errors linked to patient complications. The black box will be able to detect everything from surgical technique, to communication in the OR, to the patient's condition. It will be able to tell a surgeon if he is using techniques linked to higher complication rates, or straying from proper procedure.

"To truly understand what causes an error, you need to know all the factors that may come into play," Teodor Grantcharov, MD, PhD, who is creating the device, told CNN.

While some experts say that the box could remove the "he said, she said" of medical lawsuits, others worry about its legal impact in the OR. One surgeon told CNN that a requirement to record every operation could create a "sense of nervousness that would paralyze a surgeon's ability to operate," and the device would be best used for educational purposes.

The device will be tested in hospitals in Canada, Denmark and parts of South America over the next few months. There are also discussions to bring the black boxes to several U.S. hospitals.

Kendal Gapinski


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