Familiarity and Communication in the Operating Room

Lane L. Frasier, Sudha R. Pavuluri Quamme, Yue Ma, Douglas Wiegmann, Glen Leverson, Eva H. DuGoff, Caprice C. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Poor communication is implicated in many adverse events in the operating room (OR); however, many hospitals’ scheduling practices permit unfamiliar operative teams. The relationship between unfamiliarity, team communication and effectiveness of communication is poorly understood. We sought to evaluate the relationship between familiarity, communication rates, and communication ineffectiveness of health care providers in the OR. Materials and methods: We performed purposive sampling of 10 open operations. For each case, six providers (anesthesiology attending, in-room anesthetist, circulator, scrub, surgery attending, and surgery resident) were queried about the number of mutually shared cases. We identified communication events and created dyad-specific communication rates. Results: Analysis of 48 h of audio-video content identified 2570 communication events. Operations averaged 58.0 communication events per hour (range, 29.4-76.1). Familiarity was not associated with communication rate (P = 0.69) or communication ineffectiveness (P = 0.21). Cross-disciplinary dyads had lower communication rates than intradisciplinary dyads (P < 0.001). Anesthesiology-nursing, anesthesiology-surgery, and nursing-surgery dyad communication rates were 20.1%, 42.7%, and 57.3% the rate predicted from intradisciplinary dyads, respectively. In addition, cross-disciplinary dyad status was a significant predictor of having at least one ineffective communication event (P = 0.02). Conclusions: Team members do not compensate for unfamiliarity by increasing their verbal communication, and dyad familiarity is not protective against ineffective communication. Cross-disciplinary communication remains vulnerable in the OR suggesting poor crosstalk across disciplines in the operative setting. Further investigation is needed to explore these relationships and identify effective interventions, ensuring that all team members have the necessary information to optimize their performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-403
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Familiarity
  • Operating room
  • Teams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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