Jan 15, 2009

Cutting down on surgical complications? Easy.

A new checklist -- yes, that thing you use when you're packing for a trip or moving house -- can cut surgical deaths by nearly one-half and complications by more than a third.

Eight hospitals around the world piloted the World Health Organization's surgical safety checklist between October 2007 and September 2008. The results were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

From the Washington Post story:

The low-cost, low-tech intervention tested in eight hospitals around the globe could have enormous financial implications, as well. If every operating room in the United States adopted the surgical checklist, the nation could save between $15 billion and $25 billion a year on the costs of treating avoidable complications, according to calculations by the authors.

In the one-year pilot study involving 7,600 patients, the hospitals saw the rate of serious complications fall from 11 percent to 7 percent. Inpatient deaths declined by more than 40 percent overall, with the most drastic reductions occurring in hospitals with fewer resources.

The checklist isn't complicated. It includes 19 basic steps such as counting sponges and confirming the patient's known allergies. It saves lives, it's cheap to implement, and it's available today to every hospital in the world.

Is your hospital planning to use it?

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