Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Cell Phone Calls in the Operating Theater and Staff Distractions: An Observational Study

Avidan, Alexander MD; Yacobi, Galel MD; Weissman, Charles MD; Levin, Phillip D. MD
doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000351
Original Article: PDF Only


Cell phones are the primary communication tool in our institution. There are no restrictions on their use in the operating rooms. The goal of this study was to evaluate the extent of cell phone use in the operating rooms during elective surgery and to evaluate whether they cause staff distractions.


The following data on cell phone use were recorded anonymously: number of incoming and outgoing cell phone calls, duration of cell phone calls and their content (patient related, work related, private), who was distracted by the cell phone calls, and duration of distractions.


We made observations during 52 surgeries. There were 205 cell phone calls, 197 (96.1%; median, 3 per surgery; interquartile range, 2–5) incoming and 8 (3.9%) outgoing. Incoming calls were answered on 110 (55.8%) of 197 (median, 2; interquartile range, 1–3) occasions. The mean duration of incoming calls (64 ± 40 seconds) was shorter than those of the outgoing calls (137 ± 242 seconds, P < 0.001). During 29 (14.7%) of 197 incoming calls, 30 staff distractions occurred. Distractions were caused mainly for surgeons talking on their cell phones (24/30, 80.0%). The mean duration of the distractions was 43.6 ± 22.3 seconds. During all 8 outgoing calls, no other staff members were distracted.


The number of cell phone calls in the operating rooms during elective surgery was lower than expected and caused short-lived distractions mainly to the operating surgeons. We recommend that operating surgeons turn off their cell phones before surgery.

Correspondence: Alexander Avidan, MD, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Hadassah – Hebrew University Medical Center, POB 12000, Jerusalem 91120, Israel (e-mail:

The authors disclose no conflict of interest.

This work received departmental funding only.

Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved