How Surgeons Stay Focused for Hours

How Surgeons Stay Focused for Hours

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By Lucette Lagnado, Nov. 16, 2016

Organ-transplant surgeons have skills most of us can only dream about. One, concentrating for hours straight, is something we can aspire to.

Transplanting a liver can take eight to 10 hours. Surgeons are on their feet the whole time, hunched over the operating table. They minimize breaks for the bathroom or refreshments. And they need frequently to be on call, ready to perform an operation whenever an organ becomes available.

Members of the abdominal-organ transplant team at Montefiore Einstein Center for Transplantation, in Bronx, N.Y., have carefully honed strategies they use inside the operating room, and away from the job, to push through long surgical procedures. Some techniques are simple, like wearing comfortable shoes. Others stem from an awareness that implanting a new organ can save a patient’s life.

“You get into a zone when you are operating,” says Milan Kinkhabwala, chief of transplant surgery at the center, part of the Montefiore Health System. “Your mind is so focused on what you are doing, you are not aware of time.”

Transplant surgeons, whose work includes stitching minuscule blood vessels together, minimize their distractions. No one checks cellphones in the operating room during surgery. The surgeons often wear loupes mounted on eye glasses to magnify their work, which limits their field of vision to a few inches.

 

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