Check, mate?


A group of hospitals in eight cities around the world has shown that the use of a simple surgical checklist during major operations can lower the incidence of deaths and complications by more than one-third.  Impressive.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the rate of major complications in the studies operating rooms fell from 11 percent in the baseline period to 7 percent after introduction of the checklist.  Wow!  That’s quite an impact.

Inpatient deaths following major operations fell more than 40 percent from 1.5 percent to 0.8 percent upon implementation of the checklist.  Wow, again.  That is certainly an impressive — wait a second.  Did I just say 1.5 percent?  1.5?  One point five?  Percent?  I may be a little rusty on my statistics here (or as a rather dim-witted classmate once said to me “I never really got percents) but doesn’t that mean that more than one out of every hundred people undergoing major surgery dies?  Holy cow!  Lowering that to 0.8 percent still seems, well,  pretty crappy.

Sid Schwab, mostly retired general surgeon, wrote on his blog Cutting Through the Crap,

“If I’d had numbers like the pre-study ones in my practice, I’d have been kicked off staff.  Summarily, with the post-study ones, I might be on probation. “

And rightfully so.  Who are these surgeons and why are they allowed to continue butchering patients?  With plenty of fine and skilled technicians out of work and looking for jobs, perhaps a few of these terrible surgeons should be swapped out and replaced with a few average Joes.  Who knows…they might reduce their death rate…and stop that annoying drip in the scrub room sink.


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