To assess whether implementation of a 19-item World Health Organization (WHO) Surgical Safety Checklist in urgent surgical cases would improve compliance with basic standards of care and reduce rates of deaths and complications.
Use of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist has been shown to be associated with significant reductions in complications and deaths. Before evaluation of this safety tool, concern was raised about whether its use would be practical or beneficial during urgent surgical procedures.
We prospectively collected clinical process and outcome data for 1750 consecutively enrolled patients 16 years of age or older undergoing urgent noncardiac surgery before and after introduction of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist in 8 diverse hospitals around the world; 842 underwent urgent surgery—defined as an operation required within 24 hours of assessment to be beneficial—before introduction of the checklist and 908 after introduction of the checklist. The primary end point was the rate of complications, including death, during hospitalization up to 30 days following surgery.
The complication rate was 18.4% (n = 151) at baseline and 11.7% (n = 102) after the checklist was introduced (P = 0.0001). Death rates dropped from 3.7% to 1.4% following checklist introduction (P = 0.0067). Adherence to 6 measured safety steps improved from 18.6% to 50.7% (P < 0.0001).
Implementation of the checklist was associated with a greater than one-third reduction in complications among adult patients undergoing urgent noncardiac surgery in a diverse group of hospitals. Use of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist in urgent operations is feasible and should be considered.