Surgeons who are under stress are far more likely to make mistakes on patients in the operating room, when stressed out by even by the most trivial things, according to a Columbia University study.

For the study, Peter Dupont Grantcharov, a master’s student at the Data Science Institute at Columbia and the lead author of the study had Dr. Homero Rivas, associate professor of surgery at Stanford Medical Center, wear a high-tech “smart shirt” under his scrubs during 25 surgical procedures.

The shirt monitored electrical impulses from the doctor’s heart and recorded the variation in times between heartbeats, which indicated when he was experiencing heightened stress.

Meanwhile, another researcher documented any mistakes the surgeon made during each procedure and the exact time of each error. Grantcharov found that various moments of stress raised the likelihood of making a mistake by as much as 66 percent.

Grantcharov hopes the study will lead to new standards for operating rooms that would curb any potential disturbances -- such as machines with alarms that go off periodically, equipment malfunctions and side conversations that take place in the operating room -- that will reduce stress for surgeons.

Medical errors cause between 250,000 and 400,000 deaths annually in the U.S., with many of those occurring in the operating room.

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