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Study tracks impact of noise in operating rooms

Dec. 19, 2019, 11:14 AM


by Matt Batcheldor

Research shows that noise negatively affects individuals and patient safety, and the operating room is one of the noisiest clinical areas due to information sharing among the clinical team, various technology devices and surgical equipment.

But noise in the operating room is unregulated, not monitored and there is no policy governing it, a Vanderbilt nurse found in research that was recently presented.

Glendyle Levinskas

Glendyle Levinskas, BSN, RN, CNOR, and Elizabeth Card, MSN, APRN, presented “Operating room (OR) noise is a health and safety risk: A real time measurement of noise level during critical times of surgery and multidisciplinary staff’s noise perception in Vanderbilt adult OR” at the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses National Conference.

Levinskas said the purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of noise and noise reduction strategies on individual and patient safety and to assess OR noise levels during critical times. She then proposed noise reduction strategies.

“The very heart of the noise intervention is quiet during critical times of surgery, which means no unnecessary conversation, no unnecessary activities, no interruption and may mean no music during critical times,” she said.

Recordings of noise levels during surgical count and anesthesia emergence showed that the average noise level of the OR was 68 decibels (dB), above the normal conversation level of 60 dB. The maximum noise level was 87 dB (close to the sound of a hairdryer) and peak noise level (the spike of noise) was 106 dB, comparable to the sound of a bulldozer.

The top three sources of noise, Levinskas found via a survey of staff, were people and conversation (87%), music/radio (54%) and OR equipment and monitors (50%).

Levinskas also polled 267 multidisciplinary staff about the OR and found that 60% claimed the OR is noisy and 47% considered noise a distraction and made them feel stressed.

In addition to Levinskas and Card, other participants in the research were Cynthia Kildgore, MSHA, RN, CNOR; Oscar Guillamondegui, MD; Steve Hyman, MD; Matthew Fosnot, MSN, APRN, CRNA; Buffy Krauser Lupear, DNP, APRN, CRNA; and Diane Johnson, MSN, RN

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