After the use of surgical safety checklists was implemented at eight hospitals in eight countries, the number of post-surgical complications fell 11% and the number of deaths decreased by 1.5%, according to a special report posted on the New England Journal of Medicines Web site and set for publication Jan. 29.
Applied on a global basis, this checklist has the potential to prevent large numbers of deaths and disabling complications, the report concluded.
The 19-item World Health Organization checklist includes confirming the patients identity, making the surgical team aware of any allergy the patient may have, confirming the surgical site and procedure, making sure all essential diagnostic images are displayed in the operating room, confirming that prophylactic antibiotics were administered 60 minutes before surgery, and individual reviews for the surgeon, and the anesthesia and nursing staffs.
The WHO-financed study took place between October 2007 and September 2008, and tracked 30-day complication rates for 3,733 noncardiac surgical patients 16 years and older before the checklist was introduced and 3,955 such patients after checklist implementation at eight hospitals including the 390-bed University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, Toronto General Hospital, and institutions in England, India, Jordan, New Zealand, the Philippines and Tanzania.
In addition to the lower death rate, the volume of patients with surgical-site infections fell to 3.4% from 6.2%, unplanned returns to the operating room declined to 1.8% from 2.4%, but pneumonia cases increased to 1.3% from 1.1%.