Researchers have found that surgeons are 66 percent more likely to make errors on patients during stressful moments. West Virginia residents who are about to undergo surgery should know that medical errors contribute to between 250,000 and 440,000 deaths every year in the U.S. Many of these occur in operating rooms.

For the study, researchers at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute asked a professor of surgery to perform several operations while wearing a Hexoskin Smart Shirt under his scrubs. This shirt measured the electrical impulses that trigger heartbeats, and the variation in times between heartbeats let researchers determine the surgeon’s momentary stress levels. At the same time, laparoscopic video recordings were able to document any errors made.

Combining the data, researchers saw that short-term stress could increase the risk for error by 66 percent. The causes of stress could be anything from the alarm on a machine to the noise of people exiting the OR to a brief negative thought. Surgical errors could lead to bleeding, torn tissue and even burns.

An earlier study from Loyola University demonstrated how training that improves emotional intelligence can help prevent burnout among doctors. It encourages an educational curriculum that addresses the topic of stress management and overall wellness.

Stressed or burnt-out doctors are more prone to negligence, which means that they will be more likely to face medical malpractice claims. Such claims often end in large settlements, so a medical institution may do everything possible to put the blame on the victims. This is why victims, for their part, may want legal representation. A lawyer could evaluate the case, request an inquiry with the local medical board and hire third-party investigators to conduct their own investigation. Once it is shown that the doctor failed to meet accepted medical practices, the lawyer could proceed to negotiations.