September 2008 -

The Hub

Operating Manual: Checklist to Reduce Surgery Errors

Pilots have been using them since the 1930s; soon surgeons may too. The World Health Organization has launched a program to get surgeons using checklists before, during and after surgery. The UW Medical Center is one of just eight sites worldwide testing the concept.

The 22-item checklist includes verification by members of the surgical team that they're about to operate on the right patient, with the right procedure, in the right place. They also must verify patient allergies, whether pre-op antibiotics have been administered, and whether any instruments or surgical sponges are unaccounted for. From April to mid-June the checklist was used in more than 500 operations at UWMC.

E. Patchen Dellinger, vice-chair of surgery, estimates that it reduced patient safety errors by more than half.