Simulated surgery to cut out mistakes by doctors
TRAINEE surgeons are using pilot training-type simulators to eliminate mistakes such as operating on wrong body parts.
The scheme is also designed to ensure instruments - such as swabs and needles - do not get left inside a patient following surgery.
Simulators are being used to help medics cope with moments of high pressure and stress.
Meanwhile, actors are being employed to take the role of concerned patients or relatives.
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) was the first institution in the world to introduce such training practices.
Professor Sean Tierney from the RCSI said the training involved "working on virtual reality simulators".
These are designed to fine tune a culture of checks and balance to improve patient safety.
He explained the risk factor could be greatest when emergency surgery was required.
The RCSI said the course draws on aviation techniques which have evolved over the past 40 years. "Actors are brought in to play the part of patients, relatives, or other healthcare providers,'' Prof Tierney added.
It is all part of a process to improve general communication skills and minimise the risk of error.
However, latest figures reveal surgical errors or near misses in the operating theatre. There were 62 cases where surgeons incorrectly "marked" the wrong part of a patient's body ahead of an operation.
It is also feared that certain medical devices - including swabs, needles and other foreign bodies - were left inside patients after they were sewn up following procedures.
A number of mishaps resulted in claims against the State.
The figures are included in data provided by the State Claims Agency covering the two-year period ending December 2012.
There were instances where surgeons used the patient's wrong medical records, either before or during an operation. And patients also had an incorrect identity band attached - in some cases there was no identification band placed on the patient.
It is understood that intravenous tubes accounted for most of the foreign bodies that were left inside patients.
Medical sources have argued that many of the reports of missing medical equipment were "no harm" events. Nevertheless, these were registered as 'missing' because they could not be found when the surgery was complete.