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Home  >  Medical Research Archives  >  Issue 149  > The Relevance of World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist to Spinal Surgery
Published in the Medical Research Archives
Feb 2024 Issue

The Relevance of World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist to Spinal Surgery

Published on Feb 28, 2024




Across the 193 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) an estimated 234 million operations were conducted worldwide in 2008 (1 per every 25 human beings on the planet). These numbers have continued to increase to 312.9 million by 2016. Surgical errors involving the wrong site, wrong procedure or wrong patient occur at a rate of 1 in 112,000. This equates to 2,000 estimated ‘never events’ every year with a significant associated physical and psychological burden on patients and surgeons and financial and reputational burden on health organisations involved in litigation for such errors. The WHO Surgical Safety Checklist (WHOSSC), produced in 2009 is now synonymous with safety in the operating theatre. This checklist imposes a process of scrutiny at the key steps of the patients journey through theatre. The key details scrutinised have been shown to improve patient outcomes and theatre efficiency. Several studies have looked at adapted checklists specific to different specialties and it is becoming clearer that whilst the overall benefit of the original checklist is undeniable, in some speciality areas a more deliberate and nuanced application of the checklist to address specific problems could be of value. As a specialism, spinal surgery differs from others with a significant risk of a perioperative complication leading to harm and morbidity, permanent disability or even death. Iatrogenic spinal cord injury requires high-level resources and prolonged, sometimes lifelong rehabilitation. Other complications include cerebrospinal fluid leak, blood loss, new neurologic deficit, hardware failure, proximal junctional failure, pseudarthrosis, and surgical site infection. Wrong level spinal surgery (WLSS) is a complication specific to spinal surgery and studies have reported WLSS effecting 50-68% of spinal surgeons at some point in their career. The risks of these complications can be mitigated by factors, some of which are included in the WHOSSC and others with are lacking. This scoping review looks at how surgical checklists; both the original and modified versions have and could be used to address the surgical safety challenges specific to spinal surgery.

Author info

Sudarshan Munigangaiah, Gareth Davies-jones

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