Safe Surgery Saves Lives

Three central problems in surgical safety:

  • Unrecognized as a public health issue
  • Lack of data on surgery and outcomes
  • Failure to use existing safety know-how

Problem 1:
Unrecognized as a public health issue 

  • Known surgical complications of 3-16%
  • Known death rates of 0.4-0.8%
  • At least 7 million disabling complications, including 1 million deaths- worldwide each year
  • Burden of surgical disease is increasing worldwide

Problem 2:
Lack of data on surgery and outcomes

  • Improvements in maternal mortality depend on routine surveillance
  • Menace of HAI can be curbed with data of surgery
  • Such surveillance is lacking for surgical care

Problem 3:
Failure to use existing safety know-how

  • High rates of preventable surgical site infection result from inconsistent timing of antibiotic prophylaxis
  • Anesthetic complications are 100-1000x higher in countries that do not adhere to monitoring standards
  • Wrong-patient, wrong-site operations persist despite high publicity of such events

The Safe Surgery Saves Lives:

  • Promotion of surgical safety as a public health issue
  • Creation of a checklist to improve the standards of surgical safety
  • Collection of “Surgical Vital Statistics”

10 objectives for Safe Surgery:

  1. The team will operate on the correct patient at the correct site.
  2. The team will use methods known to prevent harm from administration of anesthetics, while protecting the patient from pain.
  3. The team will recognize and effectively prepare for life-threatening loss of airway or respiratory function.
  4. The team will recognize and effectively prepare for risk of high blood loss.
  5. The team will avoid inducing an allergic or adverse drug reaction for which the patient is known to be at significant risk.
  6. The team will consistently use methods known to minimize the risk for surgical site infection.
  7. The team will prevent inadvertent retention of instruments or sponges in surgical wounds.
  8. The team will secure and accurately identify all surgical specimens.
  9. The team will effectively communicate and exchange critical information for the safe conduct of the operation.
  10. Hospitals and public health systems will establish routine surveillance of surgical capacity, volume and results.

Goals of the Safe Surgery Saves Lives program

  • Enroll 250 hospitals in the program
  • Enroll hospitals in countries representing one fourth of the world’s population.
  • Collect surgical vital statistics for one country in each WHO region.

Easy Math

  • 234 million people are operated on each year, and >1 million of these individuals die from complications.
  • At least ½ are avoidable with the Checklist.

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