Effect of distractions on operative performance and ability to multitask-A case for deliberate practice

Aadil Ahmed, Mueen Ahmad, C. Matthew Stewart, Howard W. Francis, Nasir I. Bhatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis To measure the effect of distractions on the operative performance and analyze if practice and experience are the factors that can help to overcome the distractions. Study Design Prospective observational study. Methods Ten postgraduate year (PGY) 2-6 residents and two faculty members from Johns Hopkins' otolaryngology department were recruited and asked to deepen the dissection at the sinodural angle on the Voxel-man mastoidectomy simulator. They were asked to perform the task under four conditions: 1) no distractors, 2) differentiation and counting of a specific alarm sound among different sounds played in the background while performing the surgical task, 3) simultaneous performance of simple arithmetic task of moderate difficulty, and 4) simultaneous performance of the task with both sets of distractors combined. Results Time taken for the task (P = .02) and error scores (P = .002) increased under the third and fourth conditions. The ability to multitask and response to surgical and cognitive tasks improved with increasing level of experience of the participants. Conclusions Distractions lead to impaired dexterity and an increase in the incidence of errors. However, experience and deliberate practice can help achieve the ability to multitask without compromising the operative performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-841
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Distraction
  • deliberate practice
  • dual-tasking
  • multitasking
  • otolaryngology
  • surgical education
  • surgical skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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