Preventable operating room delays in robotic-assisted thoracic surgery: Identifying opportunities for cost reduction

Published:August 12, 2022DOI:



      This study aimed to characterize the types of intraoperative delays during robotic-assisted thoracic surgery, operating room staff awareness/perceptions of delays, and cost impact of delays on overall operative costs.


      Robotic-assisted thoracic surgery cases from May to August 2019 were attended by 3 third-party observers to record intraoperative delays. The postoperative surveys were given to operating room staff to elicit perceived delays. Observed versus perceived delays were compared using the McNemar test. Direct costs and charges per delay were calculated.


      Forty-four cases were observed, of which a majority were lobectomies (n = 38 [86%]). A total of 71 delays were recorded by observers, encompassing 75% of cases (n = 33), with an average delay length of 3.6 minutes (±5.3 minutes). The following delays were observed: equipment failure (n = 40, average delay length 5.0 minutes (±6.5 minutes), equipment missing (n = 15, 2.2 minutes [±1.4 minutes]), staff unfamiliarity with equipment (n = 4, 3.4 minutes [± 1.5 minutes]), and other (n = 12, 4.5 minutes [±5.3 minutes]). The detection rates for any intraoperative delay were consistently lower for all of the operating room team members compared with observers, including surgeons (34.3% vs 77.1%; P = .0003), first assistants (41.9% vs 74.2%; P = .0075), surgical technologists (39.4% vs 72.7%; P = .0045), and circulating nurses (41.18% vs 76.47% minutes; P = .0013). The average operating room variable direct cost of delays based on the average total delay length per case was $225.52 (±$350.18) and was 1.6% (range 0–10.6%) of the total case charges.


      The lack of perception of intraoperative delays hinders operating teams from effectively closing the variable cost gaps. Future studies are needed to explore methods of increasing perception of delays and opportunities to improve operating room efficiency.
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