Anesthesiologist Handover Protocols Can Reduce Mortality

Use of a standardized protocol may improve patient handovers and reduce the risk of mortality, according to research presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists and reported in Anesthesiology News.

Christopher Hudson, MD, staff anesthesiologist at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada, and his colleagues found that patients were 2.2 times more likely to die in the hospital when care of a patient passed from one anesthesiologist to another during cardiac surgery. Patients who were transferred between anesthesiologists were also 55 percent more likely to experience major morbidity such as a heart attack or stroke.

According to the report, Michelle Petrovic, MD, assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine in Baltimore, and her colleagues found that implementing a pilot protocol with explicit handover instructions reduced handover problems significantly.

As part of the protocol, the surgeon, anesthesiologist, receiving nurse and clinician must be present during the handoff. The study examined 60 handovers and found that the presence of all members of the handoff team increased from zero at baseline to nearly 70 percent. Handoffs where information in the surgery report was missed declined from 26 percent to 16 percent.

Read the Anesthesiology News report on handovers.

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