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BMJ Qual Saf 23:299-318 doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2012-001797
  • Systematic review

Surgical checklists: a systematic review of impacts and implementation

Open Access
  1. Amy Y Tsou
  1. ECRI Institute, Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jonathan R Treadwell, ECRI Institute, 5200 Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462-1298, USA; jtreadwell{at}ecri.org
  • Received 31 December 2012
  • Accepted 12 July 2013
  • Published Online First 6 August 2013

Abstract

Background Surgical complications represent a significant cause of morbidity and mortality with the rate of major complications after inpatient surgery estimated at 3–17% in industrialised countries. The purpose of this review was to summarise experience with surgical checklist use and efficacy for improving patient safety.

Methods A search of four databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and the Cochrane Database of Controlled Trials) was conducted from 1 January 2000 to 26 October 2012. Articles describing actual use of the WHO checklist, the Surgical Patient Safety System (SURPASS) checklist, a wrong-site surgery checklist or an anaesthesia equipment checklist were eligible for inclusion (this manuscript summarises all but the anaesthesia equipment checklists, which are described in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publication).

Results We included a total of 33 studies. We report a variety of outcomes including avoidance of adverse events, facilitators and barriers to implementation. Checklists have been adopted in a wide variety of settings and represent a promising strategy for improving the culture of patient safety and perioperative care in a wide variety of settings. Surgical checklists were associated with increased detection of potential safety hazards, decreased surgical complications and improved communication among operating staff. Strategies for successful checklist implementation included enlisting institutional leaders as local champions, incorporating staff feedback for checklist adaptation and avoiding redundancies with existing systems for collecting information.

Conclusions Surgical checklists represent a relatively simple and promising strategy for addressing surgical patient safety worldwide. Further studies are needed to evaluate to what degree checklists improve clinical outcomes and whether improvements may be more pronounced in particular settings.

Keywords

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

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