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J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 1994 Feb;8(1 Suppl 1):3-6.

Risk management in cardiac anesthesia: the ASA Closed Claims Project perspective.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle 98195.


The ASA Closed Claims Project has generated a standardized collection of case summaries of adverse anesthetic outcomes, with the objectives of identifying major areas of anesthesiologist liability and the contribution of substandard care to anesthetic injury. Seventy-six (3%) of the files in the project's current database of over 2,400 case summaries are for anesthesia-related injuries sustained during cardiac surgery. The most common adverse outcomes in the cardiac surgical group were death (36%), brain damage (16%), stroke (13%), and nerve damage (11%). Equipment malfunction or misuse was responsible for 37% of the adverse outcomes in the cardiac group, compared with only 9% in the noncardiac group (P = < 0.01). Conversely, respiratory-related damaging events were responsible for only 9% of adverse outcomes in the cardiac group, compared with 32% of adverse outcomes in the noncardiac claims (P = < 0.01); incidences of damaging events related to the cardiovascular system and those events related to inadequate or inappropriate fluid therapy were similar in both groups. Although there are several important limitations intrinsic to closed-claims analysis, data from the Closed Claims Project suggest that careful attention to IV catheter management and cardiopulmonary bypass equipment will reduce the risk of injury to patients.

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