Safe design of medical equipment: Employing usability heuristics to examine the issue of guidewire retention after surgery

Tim Horberry, Yi Chun Teng, James Ward, P. John Clarkson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


Background: Central Venous Catheterisation (CVC) is a medical procedure that has been linked with cases of retained guidewires in a patient after surgery. Whilst this is theoretically a completely avoidable complication, a guidewire of up to 60cm being retained in a patient's vascular system poses a major risk. In recently reported cases, guidewires retained inside patients have not been detected for several years. Aims: The ultimate aim was to develop appropriate, operator-centred safe design solutions that reduce guidewire retention errors. Method: This paper focuses specifically on the application of Nielsen's ten usability heuristics 1 to the issue of retained guidewires. Following the development of a task analysis of the procedure, three researchers (from medical, safety and human factors backgrounds) independently applied the usability heuristics, then met to analyse the findings. Results: A range of usability problems were identified in the Central Venous Catheterisation procedure, and solutions to the identified issues were then proposed: These focused on the design of equipment, or the wider guidewire insertion procedure. The paper details the identified usability problems and possible redesign solutions from the 10 usability heuristics. Conclusion: Overall, the application of the usability heuristics was found to be a useful method both to explore medical device interface problems and to generate possible countermeasures. Further work to eliminate/engineer out the possibility of guidewires being retained is briefly reported.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication49th Annual Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia Conference 2013, HFESA 2013
PublisherHuman Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia Inc. (HFESA)
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventHuman Factors and Ergonomics Conference (Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia) 2013 - Perth, Australia
Duration: 2 Dec 20134 Dec 2013
Conference number: 49th


ConferenceHuman Factors and Ergonomics Conference (Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia) 2013
Abbreviated titleHFESA 2013

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