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Midwestern Journal of Anesthesia Quality and Safety


Introduction: Intraoperative death affects a team of individuals, each with different levels of training and experience. Although briefings, time-outs, and debriefings have been well described, it is unclear how often they occur following intraoperative catastrophic events. We utilized an electronic survey to assess the frequency and potential utility of a formal debriefing process following the intraoperative death of a patient, and discuss our findings in light of the mental well-being of perioperative medical personnel. Methods:A 19 question electronic survey was distributed to primary operating room staff in two hospital systems. The survey was designed to identify which OR staff members had experienced intraoperative loss of a patient, what emotional response was elicited, and what resources were available to them following this event. Results:Of the 196 people who responded to the survey, over half (56%) had experienced the loss of a patient in the operating room. 80% of those who had experienced the intraoperative loss of a patient reported moderate to strong emotional responses to the event. Almost no one reported any formal support offered following the event, yet, over 50% people felt that a formal debriefing of the entire surgical team would have helped either themselves or others members of the team cope with the intraoperative death. Over 85% of team members felt that the most effective strategy in reducing stress following intra-operative patient death is talking to co-workers. Over 80% of team members felt that their activities of daily living and relationships were not interrupted following the event.