Surgical Tribune Europe

WHO checklist improves safety for patients

By Surgical Tribune
November 08, 2012

COLOGNE, Germany: The use of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Surgical Safety Checklist in the operating room considerably lowers the risks of surgery, according to an article published recently in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt International online journal. The authors analysed 20 studies, including a single prospective randomised trial, concerning the effect of the WHO checklist on safety-related behaviour in the operating room.

The most common errors in safety-related behaviour in the operating room are attributable to inadequate communication and teamwork. The Surgical Safety Checklist, which was introduced by the WHO in 2007, has the main effect of improving communication of the most important information immediately before the induction of anaesthesia, during surgery, and immediately after the procedure.

The authors report that the use of the checklist has been found to lower perioperative mortality by 47 per cent and 62 per cent in two published studies, and to lower perioperative morbidity by 36 per cent in both. Among other things, the checklist requires that the patient’s identity, the names and functions of all team members, and the correct designations of the instruments and other aids used in the procedure be checked prior to the operation.

A supplementary questionnaire found that the majority (90 per cent) of the participating physicians would want the checklist to be used were they to undergo surgery themselves. The authors maintain that the list is most likely to improve communication culture, teamwork and safety in the operating room when it is understood as a vital tool that is used for this purpose, not just as a list of items to be crossed off.

The article, titled “The effect of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist on complication rate and communication”, was published in issue 42/2012 of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

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