ACOG Releases Guidance on Surgical Errors

Janice Simmons, August 25, 2010

Preventing surgical errors requires more patient involvement and particular care by providers in creating checklists, systems, and routines that reduce the likelihood of surgical errors, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' guidance on surgical errors.

"Using standard checklists, systems, and routines may sound to some like cook-book medicine, but they have been proven to greatly reduce surgery errors," said Richard Waldman, MD, ACOG's president. "Airplane pilots routinely use checklists to reduce risks and improve safety—why shouldn't physicians?"

The ACOG said it supports the Joint Commission's "three-part universal protocol" as a useful tool for healthcare teams to prevent surgical errors. The first protocol calls for the healthcare team to ensure that each patient's relevant documents and all of the surgical equipment are available, correctly identified, and reviewed before surgery.

The second protocol calls for marking the incision or insertion site of the surgery. And, the third protocol component calls for  a "time out" before the surgery begins so the healthcare team can confirm the identity of patient and the surgical site.

Beepers, radios, telephone calls, and other "potential non- essential activities and distractions in the surgical environment should be kept to a minimum, if allowed at all, especially during critical stages of the operation," the guidance said.

Janice Simmons Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at
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