Anesthesiologists who read during operations are as vigilant as those who do not read
Research Activities, July 2009, No. 347
Critics claim that anesthesiologists who read while their patients undergo medical procedures are less vigilant and provide poor quality of care. Countering those accusations are the claims that reading during long operations actually keeps anesthesiologists intellectually stimulated. A new study finds that anesthesiologists who read during operations are just as vigilant and manage their workloads equally well as anesthesiologists who do not read. Researchers from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine observed anesthesiologists reading during 60 of 172 general anesthesia cases at 2 teaching hospitals in San Diego, California, from April 1998 to April 2002. Readers spent an average of 29 minutes reading during each case. When observers recorded the time it took anesthesiologists to acknowledge a red alarm light, both the reading and nonreading group responded in an average of just under 30 seconds.
Reading occurred only when the anesthesiologist had no tasks to perform, other than monitoring the patient. The authors suggest that reading is used as a way to stave off the boredom that can result from low workload during the maintenance periods of anesthesia. Policies that prohibit anesthesiologists from reading to stay alert during procedures may result in unintended adverse events, the authors suggest. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11521). See "Effects of intraoperative reading on vigilance and workload during anesthesia care in an academic medical center," by Jason M. Slagle, Ph.D., and Matthew B. Weinger, M.D., in the February 2009 Anesthesiology 110(2), pp. 275-283.