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Br J Anaesth. 2002 Dec;89(6):825-31.

Equipment problems during anaesthesia--are they a quality problem?

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Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, University Hospital of Trondheim, N-7006 Trondheim, Norway.



Anaesthesia equipment problems may contribute to anaesthetic morbidity and mortality. The magnitude and pattern of these problems are not established. We wanted to analyse the frequency, type and severity of equipment-related problems in our department, and if additional efforts to improve safety were needed.


The study is based on a system in which anaesthesia-related data are recorded from all anaesthetic cases on a routine basis. The data include intraoperative problems and their severity. When a problem occurs, the anaesthetist responsible for the case writes a short description of the event on the anaesthetic chart. From all recorded cases of general and regional anaesthesia, we selected cases recorded with anaesthetic 'equipment/technical problems'. These charts were retrieved from departmental archives for analysis.


From 83 154 anaesthetics, we found the frequency of anaesthetic equipment problems to be 0.05% during regional anaesthesia, and 0.23% during general anaesthesia. One-third of problems involved the anaesthesia machine, and in a quarter, human error was involved. No patient died and none suffered any lasting morbidity.


The rate of equipment problems was low, and most often of low severity. Aside from improvements in routines for preoperative equipment checks, no specific strategies for problem reduction could be suggested. The incidence of equipment problems is not a good quality indicator because of the low rate of occurrence. However, recorded equipment problems may be useful for improving quality, by analysing causative factors, and suggesting preventative strategies.

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