Gaze disruptions experienced by the laparoscopic operating surgeon

Erica Sutton, Yassar Youssef, Nora Meenaghan, Carlos Godinez, Yan Xiao, Tommy Lee, David Dexter, Adrian Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Disruptions to surgical workflow have been correlated with an increase in surgical errors and suboptimal outcomes in patient safety measures. Yet, our ability to quantify such threats to patient safety remains inadequate. Data are needed to gauge how the laparoscopic operating room work environment, where the visual and motor axes are no longer aligned, contributes to such disruptions. We used time motion analysis techniques to measure surgeon attention during laparoscopic cholecystectomy in order to characterize disruptive events imposed by the work environment of the OR. In this investigation we identify attention disruptions as they occur in terms of the operating surgeon's gaze. We then quantify such disruptions and also seek to establish what occasioned them. Methods Ten laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures were recorded with both intra- and extracorporeal cameras. The views were synchronized to produce a video that was subsequently analyzed by a single independent observer. Each time the surgeon's gaze was diverted from the operation's video display, the event was recorded via time-stamp. The reason for looking away (e.g., instrument exchange), when discernable, was also recorded and categorized. Disruptions were then reviewed and analyzed by an interdisciplinary team of surgeons and human factors experts. Results Gaze disruptions were classified into one of four causal categories: instrument exchange, extracorporeal work, equipment troubleshooting, and communication. On average, 40 breaks occurred in operating surgeon attention per 15 min of operating time. The most frequent reasons for these disruptions involved instrument exchange (38%) and downward gaze for extracorporeal work (28%). Conclusions This study of laparoscopic cholecystectomy performance reveals a high gaze disruption rate in the current operating room work environment. Improvements aimed at reducing such disruptions-and thus potentially surgical error-should center on better instrument design and realigning the axis between surgeon's eye and visual display.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1240-1244
Number of pages5
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Disruptions
  • Ergonomics
  • Gaze
  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy
  • Surgeon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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