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AORN J. 2012 May;95(5):576-90. doi: 10.1016/j.aorn.2012.02.012.

Interruptions and miscommunications in surgery: an observational study.

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NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Nursing Interventions for Hospitalized Patients, Griffith Institute of Health, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Queensland, Australia.


In surgery, as much as 30% of procedure-specific information may be lost as a result of miscommunication. We assessed the relationship between interruptions, team familiarity, and miscommunications across a purposive sample of 160 surgical procedures in 10 specialties during a six-month period. Descriptive analysis was used to quantify interruptions in respect to the source (ie, conversational, procedural) and type of miscommunication (ie, audience, purpose, occasion, content, experience). Results revealed an inverse correlation between the length of time that teams had worked together and the number of miscommunications in surgery (τ = -.33, P < .01). There was a positive correlation between the number of intraoperative interruptions and the number of miscommunications (τ = .30, P < .01). These results may help to inform the development of evidence-based interventions designed to mitigate the effects of miscommunications in surgery.

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