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USI Blog: The inevitable call!


We all would agree that once in a while, during the course of an operation, we feel uneasy because of that little monster of a device…your cell phone starts ringing. The urge to pick up and answer the call often becomes insurmountable. We have all committed this “cardinal sin” of answering a call during surgery. A recent survey conducted in India showed that a “whopping 90% nurses and 50% technicians interviewed for the survey admitted to answering calls during surgery”. 10% of the doctors admitted to checking text messages during surgery. 

I am sure that this number is an underestimate. I have seen almost everyone in my peer group taking calls during surgery.  And this is not just what’s happening in my part of the world, mind you. New York Times also ran an article highlighting this issue.

I would also like you to have a look at this interesting discussion at AAOS Now.


It’s been my observation that the introduction of robotics has also made us “much more available” to take calls during surgery.  What’s the take of the community on this issue? Is this an unnecessary fuss (considering that we tend to consider ourselves excellent at multitasking…) or is it an issue that needs to be addressed urgently?

Dr Tarun Jindal, MBBS, MS, MCh Urology
Consultant, AGHL, Kolkata, India


  1. Prokar Dasgupta
    Robotics does allow the console surgeon to take calls as he/she is unscrubbed. However the surgeon has to be sensible enough not to allow patient safety to be compromised by avoiding calls at difficult points of the procedure. Highly topical blog.

    A much commoner and perhaps rather more annoying situation are members of the audience taking phone calls during lectures at conferences!
  2. Amrith Rao
    It is a very controversial topic indeed. As Prof Dasgupta has highlighted, taking calls by the console surgeon has become a routine with robotic surgeries. Many a times, these conversations are lengthy and in fact you may take several calls over one operation.

    The question I always wondered is that the time taken for these conversations get added on to "console time" and hence the "total operative time"! When papers are published and comparison is made with open surgeries, this "wasted time" is not taken into consideration. This is particularly true in emerging robotic procedures such as Robotic Partial Nephrectomy or Robotic Cystectomy wherein operative times are longer than their open counter parts.
  3. RM Sathish Kumar
    Bringing mobile phones into the operating room is considered unhealthy practice at many institutions. Answering an important call during the course of procedure may also limit the ability of the surgeon to decide the next course of action. Though the console surgeon may be free or the calls are attended by someone else, the curiosity of the surgeon kills him. So avoiding mobiles in the operating room may be the best course of action to be taken by the surgeon himself.
  4. Dr. Santosh Waigankar
    Hello All,
    I beg to differ on some aspects in this issue. I have seen some of my consultants call up their seniors when they are stuck during a particular surgery. Many a times the frozen section biopsy report is also conveyed on the cell phone of the surgeon directly. The calls ones receives on the cell are either from friends, family, patients or Medical representatives! It is the call of the surgeon to prioritise and answer only emergency call. Emergency can arise at any time of the day or night and can even involve your family members or 'that' patient the surgeon might be apprehensive about. So avoiding mobile phones in the operation theatre is not a good idea!

    The best way out is to hand over the phone to a trusted person who can 'Filter' out calls as per your instructions. Write the names of the persons whose calls who u are expecting and u deem important to that person. Other option is to handover the cell phone to the nursing station before entering the operation theatre so that they can handle the calls. And when the call is perceived as important then the surgeon should finish 'the operating step' and pause to talk. Talking while operating is a strict NO NO.

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