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Crisis Checklist Means Life or Death in Surgical Emergency

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When something bad happens during surgery, doctors must make life and death decisions on the spur of the moment. In the chaos following a cardiac arrest, major bleed or life-threatening allergic reaction, surgeons and anesthesiologists may overlook crucial procedures. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that having an evidence-based checklist handy in the OR can help keep the team organized.

Rather than put real patients at risk, researchers created a number of simulated crisis scenarios. The operating room teams were randomized to have a checklist available or not. With a checklist visible, teams were 75 percent less likely to delay or omit a life-saving step. And at the end of the study, 97 percent of the health professionals involved said they would want a checklist available if they themselves were undergoing an operation. The research shows clearly that even crisis situations are handled better under the guidance of a checklist.

[New England Journal of Medicine, online, Jan. 17, 2013]

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It is unclear to me as to how we are to put this information to use by us. Are we to ask if there is a checklist in our OR before an operation or what?

How can we find out if our local hospitals are using checklists?

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