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Associations of workflow disruptions in the operating room with surgical outcomes: a systematic review and narrative synthesis


Background Performance in the operating room is an important determinant of surgical safety. Flow disruptions (FDs) represent system-related performance problems that affect the efficiency of the surgical team and have been associated with a risk to patient safety. Despite the growing evidence base on FDs, a systematic synthesis has not yet been published.

Objective Our aim was to identify, evaluate and summarise the evidence on relationships between intraoperative FD events and provider, surgical process and patient outcomes.

Methods We systematically searched databases MEDLINE, Embase and PsycINFO (last update: September 2019). Two reviewers independently screened the resulting studies at the title/abstract and full text stage in duplicate, and all inconsistencies were resolved through discussion. We assessed the risk of bias of included studies using established and validated tools. We summarised effects from included studies through a narrative synthesis, stratified based on predefined surgical outcome categories, including surgical process, provider and patient outcomes.

Results We screened a total of 20 481 studies. 38 studies were found to be eligible. Included studies were highly heterogeneous in terms of methodology, medical specialty and context. Across studies, 20.5% of operating time was attributed to FDs. Various other process, patient and provider outcomes were reported. Most studies reported negative or non-significant associations of FDs with surgical outcomes.

Conclusion Apart from the identified relationship of FDs with procedure duration, the evidence base concerning the impact of FDs on provider, surgical process and patient outcomes is limited and heterogeneous. We further provide recommendations concerning use of methods, relevant outcomes and avenues for future research on associated effects of FDs in surgery.

  • interruptions
  • surgery
  • patient safety
  • teamwork

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