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Another Reason Why You Should Ban Smart Phones From the OR

Patient dies during case in which the anesthesiologist admitted texting and e-mailing.

Published: April 3, 2014

A deadly distracted doctoring case out of Dallas hospital shines a light on the dangers of social media and surgery and might make you insist that all members of the OR team lock down their gadgets before entering surgery.

A Dallas County (Texas) jury will be asked to decide whether distracted doctoring played a part in the case of a 61-year-old woman who died 10 hours after undergoing an AV node ablation at Medical City Dallas, according to the Dallas Observer. The case is scheduled for trial in September.

Anesthesiologist Christopher Spillers, MD, and cardiologist Robert Rinkenberger, MD, both face malpractice charges. In deposition testimony, Dr. Rinkenberger points a finger at Dr. Spillers, who, he claims, was distracted during the case and didn't notice the patient's low blood-oxygen levels until 15 or 20 minutes after she turned blue. He suspects, he says, that Dr. Spillers simply made up the saturation numbers entered in the case record.

Asked whether Dr. Spillers was "reading a book or talking on the phone or surfing the Internet" while managing the patient's anesthesia, Dr. Rinkenberger says, "Yes. He was doing something either [with] his cell phone or pad or something."

In his deposition, Dr. Spillers initially denies that he surfs the Internet or posts on Facebook while managing anesthesia, claiming he checks the Internet only if he has questions about medication or the procedure. But when confronted with a post of a picture of another patient's vitals from his Facebook account that seem to contradict that claim, Dr. Spillers appears to acknowledge that he has in fact posted on Facebook while cases were proceeding:

Question: "Where it says 'just sitting here watching the tube on Christmas morning,' you are clearly referring to the fact that you have to be managing an anesthetic procedure on Christmas morning and you're watching the anesthetic monitor, fair?"

Dr. Spillers: "Uh-huh. Yes."

Calls for comment to Dr. Spillers and Dr. Rinkenberger by Outpatient Surgery Magazine were not returned.

Jim Burger

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