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Medical Complications and Operating Room Deaths are Reduced When Safety Checklist is Followed, Says Harvard Study

Researchers from Harvard say that operating room deaths and medical complications are decreased by 1/3rd whenever nurses and doctors follow a 19-step checklist before, during, and after the surgical procedure. Their findings come from a international study involving eight hospitals. All of the hospitals found that medical complications went down from 11% to 7% with the checklist, while patient deaths went down from 1.5% to 0.8%.

According to Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande, who is also the Harvard School of Public Health paper’s senior author, using a surgical checklist doesn’t cause unnecessary delays. Instead, it can decrease medical mistakes.

The study can be found on the New England Journal of Medicine’s Web site. A number of hospitals have already adopted the 19-step checklist because of the study’s findings. The checklist is influenced by the World Health Organization’s guidelines and takes just a couple of minutes to fill out. The list includes verbal steps for staff to follow before administering anesthesia to a patient, performing an incision, and moving the patient out of the operating room.

Steps include:

• Confirming that an anesthesia safety check was conducted • Making sure surgical team members have met each other • Talking about any concerns anyone might have about the procedure or the patient • Confirming that no surgical tools were left inside the patient
The Massachusetts Hospital Association and the Institute of Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge are calling on Massachusetts hospitals to use this surgical checklist.

Surgical Malpractice
Surgical malpractice is grounds for a Massachusetts medical malpractice claim or wrongful death lawsuit. Surgeons, nurses, and other surgical staff in the operating room are supposed to make sure that no mistakes that can cause injury or death are made before, during, or after an operation.

Safety list cuts surgery deaths, Boston.com, January 15, 2009
Surgical Safety Checklist (PDF)

Related Web Resources:

New England Journal of Medicine

Massachusetts Hospital Association

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