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Are operating rooms required to be silent?

When you go to the hospital for a surgery, something you should wonder about is how much noise there is in the operating room. Interestingly, there are actually recommendations for how loud operating rooms should be. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has previously recommended that the continuous background noise in hospitals should be limited to 45 decibels, which is still enough to disrupt someone's concentration.

There are many reasons for distractions and noise in the operating room. Environmental factors include medical equipment and devices, monitors, wireless communication systems, computers and other related devices. Technological devices such as pagers and cellphones add to the noise level in a room along with the potential for distractions.

The behavior of others may impact your surgeon as well. Non-case related conversation needs to be kept to a minimum, as does the noise from people entering or exiting the room. Patient care activities should be performed as quietly as possible, and case-related discussions should be kept to a minimum as well.

If a surgeon or medical provider is distracted during an operation, he or she has a higher chance of making a mistake, like failing to follow protocol or thinking that he or she completed a task that was not yet finished. This is why it's important for surgeries to be "no-interruption" zones, where medical providers can focus directly on their patients. Patients rely on their surgeons and medical providers to do their best work; not paying attention or getting distracted only ends up hurting patients in the end. If that happens, patients gain the right to a malpractice claim.

Source: Quick Safety, "Minimizing noise and distractions in the OR and procedural units," accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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