New Technology Could Provide A Black Box in Every Operating Room!

October 8, 2013

Exciting new technology could be able to provide a “Black Box” in every operating room.

Every time there is a private or commercial airplane crash, investigators retrieve the flight data recorder, known as a “Black Box”, to determine what went wrong. The same type of technology has been developed by a Canadian surgeon for use in operating rooms to find out why adverse events happen and what can be done in the future to improve patient safety and enhance surgical outcomes.

“It’s amazing how the aviation industry approaches error analysis and how they’re able to identify the root cause and chain of events that led to a disaster,” says Teodor Grantcharov, MD, PhD, an associate professor in the department of surgery at the University of Toronto and a general surgeon at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. “It’s quite unbelievable that we haven’t yet done this in surgery.”

His black box platform captures video from the surgeon’s imaging equipment and from a camera mounted in the operating room. It also captures audio recordings of surgical team interactions, tracks physiological data from the anesthesia monitor, and records the room’s decibel levels and air temperature.

The software syncs all the inputs, which timestamps every event during surgery, and every event can be looked at from many different perspectives.  At a particular point in time during a surgery, for example, the patient’s vital signs can be known, and at the same time, the surgical team’s discussions and actions can actually be seen and heard. Surgical techniques can be known with real precision. The goal is to determine the factors that led to an error, and come up with ways to limit those factors from harming again.

Dr. Grantcharov has collected records and is in the process of capturing data, and hopes to release his findings sometime next year. For now, he offers a sneak peek: “The number of errors and adverse events in the OR that require corrective measures are more than we thought,” he says.

In the future, he believes the black box will be used to analyze adverse events or assess new procedures, technology and techniques. But will surgeons and surgical teams resist technology that watches and records their every move, especially in a litigious society? Dr. Grantcharov appreciates those concerns, but believes putting black boxes in ORs serves a greater purpose.

“If it’s done well and used constructively, the potential to enhance patient safety is significant,” he says. “This is not about the surgeon or the surgical team. Everything that’s going on in the OR is about the patient.”

This new technology does not create adverse events where there were none. It simply sheds light on what actually was going on during surgery. Medical and hospital practitioners alike should welcome this as an instructional tool that can save lives, and as a litigation tool that can establish the high quality of their care when medical care has been appropriate. At the same time, those patients who have been injured by substandard medical care should welcome the transparency and objectivity the technology provides.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of poor medical, surgical or hospital care, you may be able to take action. Please contact the attorneys of Lane Brown, LLC, or call us at 312-332-1400 to speak with us about your options. We can help. To learn more about Lane Brown, please visit our website at




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