Aviation method linked to safer surgeries

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 2, 2012

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A nationwide program aimed at improving communication among physicians, nurses and other members of the operating room team helped lower surgical morbidity over three years, said a study in the December Archives of Surgery

Forty-two Veterans Health Administration hospitals implemented a program inspired by aviation practices to train OR teams on using checklist-guided preoperative and postoperative debriefing to prevent mistakes and achieve safer surgical outcomes. Thirty-two VHA hospitals did not implement the program.

Surgical morbidity rates declined at both groups of hospitals during the three-year period. But the hospitals that underwent the team training program saw 20% lower rates of complications such as pulmonary embolisms, surgical infections and deep vein thromboses than those that did not get the training. The team-trained hospitals lowered their surgical morbidity rate from 90 per 1,000 operations before to 75 per 1,000 afterward.

The OR team communication training, when combined with procedure-specific initiatives guided by evidence, can help improve surgical outcomes, said an invited critique that accompanied the study (link).

Note: This item originally appeared at

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