Speech Communication Interference in the Operating Room.

Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1016/j.jss.2023.11.064


INTRODUCTION: Operating room communication is frequently disrupted, raising safety concerns. We used a Speech Interference Instrument to measure the frequency, impact, and causes of speech communication interference (SCI) events.

METHODS: In this prospective study, we observed 40 surgeries, primarily general surgery, to measure the frequency of SCI, defined as "group discourse disrupted according to the participants, the goals, or the physical and situational context of the exchange." We performed supplemental observations, focused on conducting postsurgery interviews with SCI event participants to identify contextual factors. We thematically analyzed notes and interviews.

RESULTS: The observed 103 SCI events in 40 surgeries (mean 2.58) mostly involved the attending (50.5%), circulating nurse (44.6%), resident (44.6%), or scrub tech (42.7%). The majority (82.1%) of SCI events occurred during another patient-related task. 17.5% occurred at a critical moment. 27.2% of SCI events were not acknowledged or repeated and the message was lost. Including the supplemental observations, 97.0% of SCI events caused a delay (mean 5 s). Inter-rater reliability, calculated by Gwet's AC1 was 0.87-0.98. Postsurgery interviews confirmed miscommunication and distractions. Attention was most commonly diverted by loud noises (e.g., suction), conversations, or multitasking (e.g., using the electronic health record). Successful strategies included repetition or deferment of the request until competing tasks were complete.

CONCLUSIONS: Communication interference may have patient safety implications that arise from conflicts with other case-related tasks, machine noises, and other conversations. Reorganization of workflow, tasks, and communication behaviors could reduce miscommunication and improve surgical safety and efficiency.

Journal Title

The Journal of surgical research



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Anesthesia; Communication; Interprofessional teamwork; OR nursing staff; Surgery; Surgical error

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