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Operating room hazards and approaches to improve patient safety

Joyce A Wahr, MD, FAHA
Section Editors
Hilary Sanfey, MD
Roberta Hines, MD
Deputy Editor
Nancy A Nussmeier, MD, FAHA


Although patient safety in the operating room (OR) has improved in the last decades, significant risks remain. Adverse events may be subtle and delayed (eg, a central line-associated bloodstream infection due to poor hand hygiene) or dramatic and immediate (eg, a fire). Human errors and/or communication failures cause or contribute to most adverse events. Thus, well-designed systems must be in place to prevent and detect errors, as well as reduce harm when a mistake occurs.

This topic reviews specific hazards in the operating room setting, general approaches to risk reduction, and institutional approaches to improve patient safety. Details regarding selected safety issues in the OR are available in separate topics:


Surgical site infection – (See "Antimicrobial prophylaxis for prevention of surgical site infection in adults" and "Overview of control measures for prevention of surgical site infection in adults".)

Central line infection – (See "Prevention of intravascular catheter-related infections".)

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 08, 2018.
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