Surgical Checklists: Do They Solve The Problem Of Medical Errors?

Placing your life in the hands of a surgeon in the operating room can be a terrifying situation - one in which you must trust the physician will take all the necessary precautions to prevent catastrophe. Unfortunately, medical errors are all too common and can have severe, and even life threatening, consequences.

In the past few years, hospitals have increasingly implemented the use of checklists in the operating room to decrease the number of preventable mistakes. As improvements were noted, different specialties began adapting general safety checklists to meet their needs.

Of course, reducing the number of errors in the operating room is not the only step necessary to limit medical errors overall. A recent study examined data collected from 50 patients from 2008 to 2010 who underwent surgery. The researchers concluded that during postoperative care, surgical patients will generally be subjected to four to five procedural errors. Of those, approximately 50 percent will result in the patient being harmed.

Although this data suggests improvements must be made both in the operating room and throughout the period of postoperative care, it does not diminish the importance of developing techniques to decrease medical errors during surgery.

Checklists In The Operating Room Reduce Errors

Even though checklists do not eliminate the occurrence of medical errors relating to surgical patients altogether, research has shown that using checklists in the operating room decreases the number of preventable surgical errors.

The World Health Organization developed a safety checklist used by many hospitals around the country. The checklist involves a series of safeguards to ensure, for instance, that the surgeon is operating on the appropriate side of the body and on the correct patient. While studies have shown varying degrees of effectiveness, the overall conclusions have been that checklists reduce the death risk for surgical patients.

Most recently, neurosurgeons have suggested using checklists when treating brain injuries would be beneficial. While little research exists on the effects of checklist usage in neurosurgical procedures, experts note this is largely due to the small number of such operations performed, in comparison to other specialties.

One study, however, found that using a checklist and a timeout during surgery reduced the number of errors. During a 1.5-year period, during which time over 2,500 neurosurgical procedures were performed, no errors were reported.

As checklists are adapted and improved to meet the needs of certain medical specialties, the hope is they will result in reduced medical errors for all surgical patients.

When a patient experiences a surgical error, the effects are often serious and demand ongoing medical attention. In such situations, consulting with an experienced, New Jersey personal injury attorney will ensure the injured party's rights are protected.