Last year, Dr. Teodor Grantcharov put the finishing touches on a surgical “black box” and began testing the device in operating rooms. The device, inspired in part by the aviation industry’s recording log of the same name, was conceived as an educational tool. For the first time, surgeons would have a complete record of all events during a procedure, and new surgeons would be able to review the information to avoid making common mistakes.

What, exactly, is a medical “black box”?

The device consists of multiple video cameras and microphones to record every action during a surgical procedure. The recorded data is then used to create a baseline against which surgeons can compare their own techniques and successes. Since last year, the “black box” has been undergoing a trial evaluation in Canada, Denmark, and parts of South America with extremely encouraging results.

This past spring, Dr. Grantcharov gave a talk on the use and utility of surgical black boxes at the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. He discussed the success of ongoing trials in hospitals in Canada, and reported that the devices caught 66 near misses during 54 surgeries. Three-quarters of those near misses were not noticed by the operating room team but were caught by reviewers.

Needless controversy costs lives

Unfortunately, this promising new technology is facing stiff opposition from not just the government but also the medical community themselves. Opposition to new technologies is all too common, and generally focuses on a perceived problem rather than the potential benefit. The problem, in this case, is that no one is entirely sure what would happen if the recorded information were subpoenaed for a medical malpractice case.

This concern overshadows the decided benefits of putting a black box in surgical suites around the world. General Surgery News reported that the device is intended to be used, “… in all cases as a teaching tool so surgeons and trainees can study their surgical technique, much like professional athletes spend hours watching videos of their own performances. In addition to technique, researchers can study other factors—communication, safety processes or room disruptions—that may affect patient outcomes.”

While the controversy rages, people suffer needlessly every day. A study from Johns Hopkins found that, “a surgeon in the United States leaves a foreign object such as a sponge or a towel inside a patient’s body after an operation 39 times a week, performs the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a week and operates on the wrong body site 20 times a week.”

In this case, the technology is already here. Unfortunately, it is the subject of serious debate that focuses on doctors and regulations instead of patients and their safety. This technology exists, and when the dust settles, everyone will be safer for its presence. In the meantime, medical mistakes happen every day, and you and your loved ones are at risk.

When healthcare providers make mistakes, victims of medical injury can find their lives turned upside down in an instant. The emotional and financial toll of these cases can be very high. If you are a victim of surgical malpractice, the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Rocky McElhaney Law can be your advocates. We will fight for your rights. We will fight for you. Contact us today for a free consultation with a personal injury attorney serving clients in Nashville, Gallatin, and Knoxville, and throughout Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee.