If you don’t want to know too much about the state of surgical safety today, you had better not read further. Though these study results are positive, they reflect poorly on the current state of care in hospital surgical units today.
The study, reported in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, involved the implementation of a surgical checklist developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). A one-page checklist focused on basic surgical practices in the operating room — anesthesia, surgical preparation, and post surgery items — was tested for one year in hospitals in Seattle, Toronto, London, Auckland, Amman, New Delhi, Manila, and Ifakara, Tanzania.
The data revealed that the rate of major complications from surgery fell 36 percent (from 11 percent to 7 percent) and that the rate of inpatient deaths fell more than 40 percent (from 1.5 percent to .8 percent). These results were not just found in poor countries; the results were similar across the board.
“The results are startling,” said Dr. Atul Gawarnde from the Harvard School of Public Health. “They indicate that gaps in teamwork and safety practices in surgery are substantial in countries both rich and poor,” he said, further noting that the WHO checklist should be introduced universally, with “no time wasted.”
Britain’s National Patient Safety Agency has ordered all hospitals in England and Wales to use the WHO checklist by February 2010.