Surgical time-out procedures: a single centre audit of standardised surgical communications

J Small Anim Pract. 2022 Nov 23. doi: 10.1111/jsap.13580. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To assess deviation from a standardised structure of surgical time-out procedures in a multidisciplinary referral hospital.

Materials and methods: An observational process audit was performed on a convenience sample of surgical cases. A fly-on-the-wall observer assessed surgical time-out procedures in real-time. Pre-induction and recovery checklists were not assessed. Observations were recorded on standardised reporting forms including a checklist and free text. Analysis was performed using a validated framework of four conceptual domains: the purpose, occasion, audience and content of the communication. Field notes were taken to allow retrospective verification of assessments. Observations were compared to a predefined standardised surgical time-out procedure structure.

Results: Twenty surgical time-out procedures were observed from a mixture of procedure types. Although all were performed at the specified time and place, only eight (40%) were considered to have fully achieved their purpose with potentially important sections of the communication being omitted in the others. Individuals were not ready for communication to begin in 14 (70%) and distractions occurred in 11 surgical time-out procedures (55%). In seven surgical time-out procedures (35%) superfluous information was communicated.

Clinical significance: In a busy operating theatre environment, surgical time-out procedures may not be performed as they are intended. Communication during surgical time-out procedures should be audited to highlight opportunities for improvement.