​The Perfect Trap

​Brain surgery was never on my list of careers.

Reading Henry Marsh's book "Do No Harm" makes me glad that it was never a remote possibility.

The extreme levels of stress they have to cope with would be unbearable to most people. Their patients are often terminally ill, and a risky operation is the only chance they have to survive. The actions of the surgeon could save them. Or if things go wrong put them in an even worse situation.

Worse than death.

Marsh describes an operation he did early in his career. A young man had developed a brain tumour.

If it was left to grow, he was sure to die. The surgery took many hours but proceeded well. The growth had to be painstakingly removed, bit by bit, to avoid damaging the blood vessels it had wrapped itself around.

By the end of the procedure, there was only one minute piece left. It was not clinically necessary, but Marsh wanted to do a perfect job. As he positioned his scalpel to remove it, he brushed the artery and blood sprayed out.

The patient's brain was severely damaged, and he spent the rest of his life in a vegetative state.

An extreme example but it graphically illustrates the danger of chasing perfection.

We're lucky that the consequences of our mistakes are unlikely to be life-threatening. However, it is always tempting to do more. Force a result rather than let it happen in its own good time.

There is a saying in Osteopathy: Find it, fix it, and leave it alone.

It means do what you can, and the body will do the rest.

That's our antidote to perfectionism

Philip Hambly

Osteopath at the Osteopath Centre from 2008 till present

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