Anesthesiology is unique among medical specialties in that most anesthetics and surgical procedures are uneventful. When a critical event does happen, there is often little or no warning. Things happen quickly, and a previously routine procedure can rapidly become life-threatening; the initial response to a critical event may determine its outcome. Anesthesiologists must be ready to detect and manage unpredicted emergencies at any time. One interesting study found that early recognition and effective management of complications were as important to improving mortality as was avoiding complications during surgery altogether.

Emergency readiness requires that the caregiver have the knowledge, skills and equipment necessary to resolve the problem, but it’s easy to forget critical items when things are not going well. The use of checklists and established procedures, long an accepted practice in aviation, can help us to quickly establish a diagnosis and begin treatment. Checklists may also offer unanticipated benefits:...

You do not currently have access to this content.