Thursday, January 15, 2009

Surgery Checklists Could Save Lives: "Did Anyone Remember to Stitch the Patient Back Up?"

In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly. - Mark Sanborn

That quote fits this story. An international study showed that "surgical staff can dramatically curb the amount of harm they inadvertently do to patients simply by working through checklists before, during and after operations."

Incredibly, by using a checklists, like those used by airline pilots, over a third of serious complications as well as deaths, could be avoided.

The rate of serious complications -- from cardiac arrest to acute kidney failure and septic shock -- dropped to 7% of operations from 11%, a reduction of more than a third. The fatality rate fell by almost half, to .8% of surgeries, or 31 deaths.

That is kinda nice to know, especially if you're worried about whether or not they took out the bad kidney and not the good one, or when you wake up, and hear one of the staff say, "now where did I leave my forceps?"

Dr. Bryce Taylor, chief surgeon at Toronto's University Health Network, said that there was a reluctance to implement the checklists, as there was a "surgeons are Gods" mentality, similar to the attitude of pilots of older days.

If one of the nurses in the OR is afraid to speak up, then the team is in trouble ... When the junior person could speak up, they discovered they could have a much safer environment.

The surgery checklists costs nothing, and could just be coming to a hospital near you. Out of the 2 million plus surgeries performed in Canada each year, implementing the checklist could prevent over 60,000 serious complications - and that's nothing to sneeze at.

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