Falls From the O.R. or Procedure Table

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Abstract

Patient safety secured by constant vigilance remains a primary responsibility of every anesthesia professional. Although significant attention has been focused on patient falls occurring before and after surgery, a potentially catastrophic complication is when patients fall off an operating room or procedure table during anesthesia care. Because such events are (fortunately) uncommon, and because very little information is published in our literature, we queried 2 independent closed claims databases (the American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims Project and the secure records of a private, anesthesia specialty-specific liability insurer) for information. We acquired documentation of patient events where a fall occurred during anesthesia care, noting the surrounding conditions of the provider, the patient, and the environment at the time of the event. We identified 21 claims (1.2% of cases) from the American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims Project, while information from a private liability insurer identified falls in only 0.07% of cases. The percentage of these patients under general, regional, or monitored anesthesia care anesthesia was 71.5%, 19.5%, and 9.5%, respectively. To educate personnel about these uncommon events, we summarized this cohort with illustrative examples in a series of mini-case reports, noting that both inpatients and outpatients undergoing a broad array of procedures with various anesthetic techniques within and outside operating rooms may be vulnerable to patient falls. Based on detailed reports, we created 2 supplementary videos to further illuminate some of the unique mechanisms by which these events and their resulting injuries occur. When such information was available, we also noted the associated liability costs of defending and settling malpractice claims associated with these events. Our goal is to inform anesthesia and perioperative personnel about the common patient, provider, and environmental risk factors that appear to contribute to these mishaps, and suggest key strategies to mitigate the risks.

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