17 Jan 2009

Surgical checklist link to saving lives

3:17 pm on 17 January 2009

Using a simple surgical checklist during major operations can cut deaths by more than 40% and complications by more than a third, according to new research.

Eight hospitals took part in the World Health Organisation initiative, including Auckland City Hospital.

The study was carried out between October 2007 and September last year, and involved just under 1000 patients from New Zealand.

It found that by using the three-stage checklist, which takes only a couple of minutes, patient mortality rates dropped by 40%.

In Auckland, the death rate did not change. However, complications arising from operations dropped by 30%.

The checklist focuses on basic good practice before anaesthesia is administered, before a patient is cut open, and before a patient is removed from the operating theatre, and is designed to promote effective teamwork and prevent problems such as infection and unnecessary blood loss.

It was also tested in hospitals in Seattle, Toronto, London, Amman, New Delhi, Manila and Ifakara in Tanzania.

In total, data was collected from 7,688 patients, 3,733 before the checklist was implemented, and 3,955 afterwards.

The rate of major complications fell from 11% to 7%, and the rate of inpatient deaths following surgery fell more than 40% from 1.5% to 0.8%.

A professor of anaesthesiology at the University of Auckland, Alan Merry, says the results are astonishing and another step toward ensuring patient safety.

Professor Merry hopes other hospitals throughout New Zealand will adopt the checklist.