27 January 2014

Surgical teams need a safety checklist

Research indicates that surgery might be less risky for patients if they have their surgical team follow a safety checklist.

Surgery might be less risky for patients if they have their surgical team follow a safety checklist, according to new research.

The study looked at the use of the World Health Organization's surgical safety checklist, which was created in 2009 to reduce complications. It outlines 26 tasks that should be undertaken during the three phases of surgery: before anaesthesia, before the incision is made and before the patient leaves the operating room.

Specific items on the checklist include reviewing a patient's allergies before administering anaesthesia, confirming the surgical site before cutting and making sure sponges and all other surgical instruments are accounted for before wheeling a patient out of the operating room.

Formal counts

Researchers gave the checklist to 43 patients who had their surgical team sign it to confirm they would follow it. Another group of 61 patients did not know about or receive the checklist.

Surgical teams were more likely to follow all 26 checklist items when operating on patients who had the checklists.

For example, allergies were confirmed in 95% of patients in the checklist group and 69% of patients without the checklist. The surgical site was confirmed before incision in 74% of checklist patients and 54% of those without a checklist. And formal counts of sponges and surgical instruments were done in 87% of checklist patients and 19% of those without a checklist.

All of the patients with a checklist said having it made them feel more comfortable before their surgery, according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation at a meeting of the American Society of Anaesthesiologists in Dallas.

Culture of safety

"The checklist is only beneficial when it is used, and we found that involving patients helps ensure that surgical teams complied with it," Dr Seth Christian, director of quality for the department of anaesthesiology at the Tulane University Hospital and Clinic in New Orleans, said in a society news release.

"Empowering patients to participate in their own care creates a culture of safety and makes them feel safer – and rightly so," Christian said.

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