Surgical checklist to reduce mortality, complications around globe


September 24, 2010

In 2007 the World Health Organization introduced a surgical safety checklist as part of its Safe Surgery Saves Lives initiative. The checklist’s purpose was to reduce surgical complications that result from inadequate safety practices as well as to promote greater communication among surgery teams.

The checklist was used in a pilot program in eight hospitals in different cities that year. Hospitals were places such as Seattle, London and Auckland as well as Manila, New Delhi and Amman. The data gathered formed the basis for several papers, including one published in 2009 in The New England Journal of Medicine, “A Surgical Safety Checklist to Reduce Morbidity and Mortality in a Global Population.” In this study, the authors look at the potential  for reductions in surgical complications and patient deaths from adopting a surgical safety checklist.

The findings include:

  • All participating hospitals showed reductions in complications after surgery, and three sites showed significant declines.
  • On average, the use of the WHO checklist was associated with a reduction in complications from 11% to 7%.
  • The total in-hospital death rate was reduced from 1.5% to 0.8%.
  • Overall, complications and in-hospital deaths fell by the equivalent of 36%.

The same data also formed the basis for a 2010 article in Health Affairs, “Adopting a Surgical Safety Checklist Could Save Money and Improve the Quality of Care in U.S. Hospitals.” Rather than focusing on reductions in complications and patient deaths, the authors looked at potential cost savings and improved care.

Tags: safety, technology


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Citation: Haynes, ALex, B; et al. "A Surgical Safety Checklist to Reduce Morbidity and Mortality in a Global Population", The New England Journal of Medicine, January, 2009, Vol 360, Issue: 5, 491-499. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa0810119.