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Surgical Black Box

A new data-recording system could pinpoint the causes of botched medical procedures. The system-modeled after a cockpit data recorder-records numerous aspects of a surgery for later review: patients’ vital signs, spoken conversations and staff comings and goings. Sensors in the surgeon’s gloves document his or her hand motions. The data recorder will help prevent future medical errors, says inventor Ara Darzi, professor of surgery at Imperial College in London. Darzi expects to transfer his patented prototype (photo) into an operating room next year and eventually to start a company to sell the system. Darzi admits his fellow doctors are “concerned about a recording of what they say during surgery-how many bad words they can use.”

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