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Man with checklist

Improving surgical safety through simple checklists

Case study | |

Surgical complications are common and often preventable. Drawing on lessons learned from the aviation industry, the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist (SSC) was developed as a simple tool to promote appropriate behaviours during surgery, thereby decreasing human errors and adverse events. Beyond providing a gentle reminder of critical steps in the surgical process, the checklist also encourages changes in the culture and behaviour of the surgical team as a whole. Through the introduction of a formal pause during introductions and debriefings, all members of the surgical team are given the opportunity to speak up, irrespective of hierarchical rank or seniority. Studies have found that this simple tool was effective in changing behaviours: complications were reduced by over one third and deaths cut by nearly 50% in eight pilot hospitals representing a variety of economic circumstances and diverse patient populations. The list is now used by most surgical providers around the world (1).




  1. Haynes AB, et al. A Surgical Safety Checklist to Reduce Morbidity and Mortality in a Global Population. New England Journal of Medicine, 2009, 360:491-9.
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