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Thursday 19th April 2018

Surgical checklist that saves lives

7th July 2008

World health experts have issued a new checklist which they hope will boost safety procedures in surgical operations around the world.


The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s new safety checklist is aimed at surgical teams who carry out 234 million procedures worldwide every year.

Director-General Margaret Chan said preventable surgical injuries and deaths were a growing concern, and that using the checklist was the best way to reduce errors and improve patient safety.

Complications occur in 3-16% of inpatient surgical procedures in industrialised countries. The rates for mortality or permanent disability as a result of surgery is 0.4% to 0.8%.

However, in poorer countries, mortality rates from general anaesthesia alone can be much higher: as high as one in 150 in some sub-Saharan African countries.

Infections and other post-operative complications are also a major concern, and about half of these are believed to be preventable.

Atul Gawande, surgeon and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who helped the WHO write the checklist, said the quality and safety of surgical care still varies greatly in spite of overall improvements in safety standards.

The Harvard School of Public Health is backing the Safe Surgery Saves Lives campaign together with more than 200 national and international medical societies and ministries of health.

The goal is to reduce avoidable deaths and complications in surgical care.

Pilot studies have indicated that patients are twice as likely to get good standards of care if it is used.

Among the items on the checklist include careful procedures to establish correctly the patient's identity and the exact procedure to be performed. Known allergies are also checked and reconfirmed.

During the signing out procedures, instruments, sponges and needles must be counted to make sure none has been left inside the patient.


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