Role of experience in the response to simulated critical incidents

Anesth Analg. 1991 Mar;72(3):308-15. doi: 10.1213/00000539-199103000-00006.


Eight experienced anesthesiologists (faculty or private practitioners) were presented with the same simulated critical incidents that had previously been presented to 19 anesthesia trainees. The detection and correction times for these incidents were measured, as was compliance with Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) guidelines during cardiac arrest, and the occurrence of unplanned incidents. Experienced personnel tended to react more rapidly than did trainees, but differences between second-year anesthesia residents (CA2) and experienced anesthesiologists were not statistically significant. There was a high variability in performance between incidents and within each group. Unplanned errors and management flaws still occurred with experience subjects. The response to incidents during anesthesia is a complex process that involves multiple levels of cognitive activity and is vulnerable to error regardless of experience. Most trainees seemed to acquire adequate response routines by the end of the CA2 year. Formal reasoning appeared to play a minor role in responding to intraoperative events, but the exact nature of the anesthesiologist's cognition remains to be thoroughly investigated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / education*
  • Equipment Failure
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Intraoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Intraoperative Complications / therapy
  • Time Factors