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Surgical safety checklist saves lives

BOSTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Surgeons using a simple checklist during major operations can lower deaths and complications by more than one-third, U.S. researcher found.

The year-long study, led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization, found the rate of major complications in the study's operating rooms -- in hospitals in eight cities -- fell from 11 percent in the baseline period to 7 percent after introduction of the checklist -- a reduction of more than one-third.

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The study also found that inpatient deaths following major operations fell by more than 40 percent with implementation of the checklist.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found reductions were of equal magnitude in high income and lower income sites in the study. The pilot sites included one hospital in each of the cities: Seattle; Toronto; London; Auckland, New Zealand; Amman, Jordan; New Delhi, Manila, the Philippines; and Ifakara, Tanzania.

Items on the checklist are intended to ensure safe delivery of anesthesia, appropriate preventive measures against infection, effective teamwork and other essential practices in operative care, the researchers said.

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"The results are startling," Dr. Atul Gawande of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, the senior author, said in a statement. "They indicate that gaps in teamwork and safety practices in surgery are substantial in countries both rich and poor."

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