After implementation of surgical safety checklists in a tertiary care hospital, researchers observed a 27% reduction of risk-adjusted all-cause 90-day mortality, but adjusted all-cause 30-day mortality remained unchanged.

In addition, length of stay was reduced but 30-day readmission rate was not, according to the study published online in JAMA Surgery. Those key findings are from an effort to assess the association between the implementation of surgical safety checklists (SSCs) and rates of all-cause 90- and 30-day mortality.

Previous studies have analyzed in-hospital mortality or 30-day mortality “but not intermediate-term outcome variables,” said lead author Dr. Matthias Bock of the department of anesthesiology and intensive care medicine at Merano Hospital, Merano, Italy. “Almost one-quarter (23.6%) of the deaths within 30 days after surgery occurred after discharge, and 39.7% of patients undergoing surgery experienced only post-discharge complications. Ninety-day mortality often doubles 30-day mortality. In-hospital mortality and 30-day mortality might therefore underreport the real risk to these patients, especially after tumor surgery or among the elderly. Studies of the effect or the association of the implementation of surgical safety checklists (SSCs) on 90-day mortality are lacking.”

Dr. Bock and his associates retrospectively evaluated the outcomes of surgical procedures performed during the six months before and six months after implementation of SSCs at the 715-bed Central Hospital of Bolzano (CHB) in Italy (Jan. 1-June 30, 2010, and Jan. 1-June 30, 2013, respectively). The key outcome measures were risk-adjusted rates of 90- and 30-day mortality, readmission rate, and LOS ( JAMA Surg. 2016 Feb 3. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.5490 ).

The study sample consisted of 10,741 patients, including 5,444 pre-intervention and 5,297 post-intervention patients. Of these, 53% were female and their mean age was 53 years.

The researchers reported that 90-day all-cause mortality was 2.4% before SSC implementation, compared with 2.2% after implementation, for an adjusted odds ratio (AOR) of 0.73 (P = .02). However, 30-day all-cause mortality was 1.36% before SSC implementation, compared with 1.32% after implementation, for an AOR of 0.79 (P = .17), remaining essentially unchanged.

Dr. Bock and his associates also found that 30-day readmission rates were similar in the pre-implementation and post-implementation groups (14.6% vs. 14.5%, respectively: P = .90), but the adjusted length of stay favored the post-implementation group (a mean of 9.6 days, compared with a mean of 10.4 days in the in the pre-implementation group; P less than .001).

The researchers acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including its single-center design and the lack of a control group. “The study design highly reduces the risk for observation bias (Hawthorne effect),” they wrote. “Furthermore, we did not inform the staff about the purpose of our study. We analyzed only objective outcome data to reduce reporting bias as much as possible.”

The finding of a decline in LOS “suggests potential cost savings after the implementation of SSCs,” they concluded. “Further trials should address this hypothesis and the effect on quality of care owing to a reduction of the costs of complications or unplanned reoperations.”

The study was supported by the Public Health Care Company of South Tyrol, Italy, and by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy. The researchers reported having no financial disclosures.


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