Saturday, November 27, 2010

Medical Professionals Endorse WHO Checklist For Safer Surgery

A new safety checklist for surgical procedures developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) won the endorsements of nearly 250 health organizations from over 40 countries at a launching event yesterday at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Washington, D.C.
The endorsements include “70 professional associations, ministries of health and hospitals from 29 countries in the Americas,” said PAHO Director Mirta Roses. “Our participation in ‘Safe Surgery Saves Lives’ is an important step to bring forward the patient safety agenda in the Americas.”
The new Surgical Safety Checklist, from WHO’s World Alliance for Patient Safety, offers simple step-by-step guidelines that surgical teams should follow before and after any operation to ensure patient safety. The guidelines range from making sure the right patient is being operated on at the right body site to estimating the amount of blood loss that can be expected. WHO estimates that adherence to the checklist could prevent some 3.5 million deaths and major disabilities annually.
“There are 7 million deaths and disabilities due to complications of surgery every year around the world,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan in a special message for the event. “Half of these could be avoided by following basic standards of care.”
About 234 million major surgical procedures are performed worldwide each year, or 1 for every 25 human beings, according to a WHO-sponsored study published this week in the medical journal The Lancet. This is more than twice the number of childbirths, and “there are 10 to 100 times more complications due to surgery than to childbirth,” said Dr. Atul Gawande, coauthor of the study and team leader for the development of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist. Gawande’s study estimates that 1 million people die during or immediately after surgery each year, and that half of these deaths could be prevented through safer practices.
Gawande said his team borrowed the checklist concept from the aviation industry, which has used pre-flight checklists effectively to reduce accidents resulting from human error. He said the team’s short-term goal is to have the checklist used in 2,500 hospitals by the end of next year.
The Surgical Safety Checklist divides surgery into three phases: “Sign in,” before anesthesia is administered; “Time Out,” before skin incision; and “Sign Out,” before the patient leaves the operating room. WHO recommends that a single “checklist coordinator” take responsibility for confirming that each member of the surgical team has completed his or her required tasks before the operation can begin. Among the issues covered in the checklist are:
(Before the operation)
* The patient’s identity and the exact surgical site
* The procedure to be performed
* Known patient allergies
* Antibiotics have been administered within 60 minutes of the operation
(After the operation)
* All instruments, sponges and needles are accounted for
* Labeling of specimens
* Plans for postoperative care
WHO has begun testing the checklist’s effectiveness through pilot projects in eight countries: Canada, India, Jordan, New Zealand, Philippines, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Based on preliminary data from 1,000 operations, “We have already seen significant reductions in deaths and disabilities,” said Gawande.

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