'Black box' technology makes its way into the operating room
Published Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:24AM EDT
The technology that’s long been used to investigate plane or train accidents is now being used in a Toronto operating room to help doctors identify their errors and prevent similar slip-ups in the future.
Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, a surgeon at St. Michael's Hospital, has been using a 'black box' to record his surgeries since late April.
"The interesting thing is when we operate, when we're in the action, we don't appreciate when we make an error," he told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday. "We think we finish the surgical procedure feeling like we did a fantastic job, that we can't do better than what we did. And in fact, that's not true."
The black box device is about the size of a laptop and includes a number of cameras and microphones. It records almost everything that happens in the operating room, including video of the procedure, conversations among health care workers, the patient's heart rate and blood pressure and even the room temperature.
Grantcharov, who spearheaded the technology, said the technology is currently only being used for minimally invasive surgeries, but he hopes to expand its use to other procedures.
In reviewing the data from the device, Grantcharov found that the majority of errors during Gastric bypass surgeries occurred during the same two stages: suturing and grafting the bowel.
Grantcharov said this points to a need for more training in those areas.
"When we analyze it afterwards, we understand that we are humans, we make errors and we're not perfect," he said. "By looking at our errors and understanding how they happen, we can prevent it next time."
Grantcharov worked with Air Canada for six months in developing the technology.
Patients must give their consent before the black box is used during their surgery, and Grantcharov said most patients have been very receptive to the idea.
"The vast majority of patients tell me the same thing: 'I can't believe this hasn't been done before.'"
Grantcharov said while black box technology has existed for some time, it's only recently that the technology became "perfect" enough for the operating room.
He added that it's "satisfying" to be able to critically evaluate his performance following a surgery.
"This feeling of getting better, getting safer, is very, very satisfying as a doctor," he said.