This paper outlines the practical steps involved in setting up and running multi-professional, in-depth case reviews of 'near miss' obstetrical complications. It draws on lessons learned in 12 referral hospitals in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Morocco. A range of feasibility indicators are presented which measured the implementation and frequency of audit activities, the quality of participation, adherence to the planned protocol for the near-miss audits, the quality of audit discussions and the sustainability of the project. Although the principles of the audit approach were well accepted and implemented everywhere, near-miss audits appeared most successful in first referral level hospitals. Contextual factors that determine the successful implementation of near-miss audit include staff finding adequate time for audit activities, financial incentives to groups rather than individuals, involvement of senior staff and hospital managers, the ease of communication in smaller units, the employment of social workers for the incorporation of women's views at audits, and the strength of external support provided by the research team. The poor quality of information recorded in case notes was recognized everywhere as a deficiency, but did not present a major obstacle to effective case reviews. Ownership and leadership within the hospital, more easily achieved in the first-level referral hospitals, were probably the most important determinants of successful implementation. Sustainability requires a commitment to audit from policy makers and managers at higher levels of the health system and some devolution of resources for implementing recommendations.