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The Pride Factor

Fri, 05/22/2009 - 11:09am
The pediatric surgeon operating on Shelbey decided to go with a minimally invasive approach to the procedure—working though small holes in Shelbey's abdomen—and use a morcellator to remove the organ. "To retrieve the fist-sized spleen through one of the holes, he encased the organ in a bag and used a blender-like device called a morcellator to chop it up inside the girl's body," the article reports. "The device punctured the bag, cut major blood vessels and severed part of her bowel, causing serious blood loss and permanent brain damage. Surgeons, undoubtedly, know the importance of education and training and working together to advance surgery. However, just like any professional, they also face the "pride factor"—the idea that we all want to feel good at our jobs, among the "best", if possible, and do not always want to let on we need help.

Reading the Wisconsin State Journal a few weeks back, I came upon an article that broke my heart.

The article reported a $17.3 million lawsuit settlement in Wisconsin, the result of a malpractice case in which a surgeon attempted to remove a young girl's spleen and left her permanently brain damaged. According to the article, Shelbey Bomkamp, now 8 years old, had her spleen removed in June 2007 because of a hereditary condition.

The pediatric surgeon operating on Shelbey decided to go with a minimally invasive approach to the procedure—working though small holes in Shelbey's abdomen—and use a morcellator to remove the organ. "To retrieve the fist-sized spleen through one of the holes, he encased the organ in a bag and used a blender-like device called a morcellator to chop it up inside the girl's body," the article reports. "The device punctured the bag, cut major blood vessels and severed part of her bowel, causing serious blood loss and permanent brain damage."

Unfortunately, this tragedy is not just a routine procedure gone wrong. What's more is, the surgeon had never used a morcellator before and did not inform Shelbey's parents he would be trying this new instrument for the first time. As a result of the incident, Shelbey is confined to a wheelchair, fed through a feeding tube and unable to speak, communicating by blinking her eyes. The damage is irreversible, the article reports.

I know, mistakes happen, even to the best of surgeons. However, reading about this incident reminded me of another conversation. At a recent trade show, I learned about a new social networking/educational resource for surgeons. SURGiVIEW™ is a Web-based program that allows users to upload video of their surgeries, share with other professionals in the field what instruments they use and even offers a forum-type function where surgeons and other professionals can communicate and ask questions.

This new community seems like the ultimate educational platform. It allows the opportunity for surgeons to witness new procedures and techniques and interact with each other. What makes it truly valuable, though, is it allows surgeons to learn without necessarily having to worry about their peers knowing they still have things to learn. As a surgeon explained, "I would rather watch video than let another surgeon know I don't know how to do something."

As I read this article, it got me thinking—is that what happened in this case? I understand there is a first time for everything, and no matter how much this surgeon practiced and trained and studied, there is always a chance that something could go wrong. I can't help but question, though, did this pediatric surgeon maybe know he needed help using this morcellator for the first time, but was too proud to ask for it until it was too late?

Surgeons, undoubtedly, know the importance of education and training and working together to advance surgery. However, just like any professional, they also face the "pride factor"—the idea that we all want to feel good at our jobs, among the "best", if possible, and do not always want to let on we need help.

Hopefully, this new online resource will come to be the next greatest educational tool for surgical professionals—to act not only as a forum for sharing the latest surgical accomplishments and to give advice about which instruments and brands work best, but an opportunity for surgeons to learn and ask their peers for help in a comfortable setting, so they are as prepared as they can be for the many "firsts" to come.

Check out SURGiVIEW™ at www.surgiview.org

Source: Wisconsin State Journal

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