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Preventing Surgical Mistakes

Surgical complications could drop by more than a third, if doctors and nurses would pause to double-check basics. For example, like a patient's name and whether surgical equipment is working properly.

It's all part of a basic safety checklist that doctors with Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization think should be incorporated into operating rooms worldwide.

The rate of major complications in hospitals testing the safety checklist fell from 11 percent to 7 percent. Inpatient deaths following surgery dropped by more than 40 percent.

The checklist is a single page of questions to be answered at 3 times during an operation: before anesthesia, before any incision is made, and before the patient leaves the OR. It requires an introduction of everyone in the room, conversation about potential complications, and a final count of all instruments used in surgery.

Researchers say implementing the checklist in all U.S. hospitals could save billions of dollars by preventing major complications.


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