Hospitals urged to review policies based on updated surgery guidance

Hospitals should review their policies and procedures to ensure consistency with recently updated Statements on Principles from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) regarding the responsibilities of primary surgeons during surgery. That’s the recommendation of the American Hospital Association (AHA) and Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which issued an advisory last week following the release of the ACS principles document. The ACS guidance comes in the wake of several news reports that raised questions about primary surgeons initiating a second surgery before the first surgery was fully completed.

In its principles document, ACS states:

The primary attending surgeon is personally responsible for the patient’s welfare throughout the operation. In general, the patient’s primary attending surgeon should be in the operating suite or be immediately available for the entire surgical procedure. There are instances consistent with good patient care that are valid exceptions. However, when the primary attending surgeon is not present or immediately available, another attending surgeon should be assigned as being immediately available.

The AHA and AAMC emphasize that no increased risks to patients have been linked to overlapping or concurrent surgeries, and potential risks may be controlled and/or mitigated by existing policies, procedures and practices. Nevertheless, the professional associations recommend that hospitals review their policies and procedures to ensure that they are consistent with the updated ACS Statements on Principles.

For additional information, contact Nancy Foster, AHA vice president of quality and patient safety, at nfoster@aha.org, or Ivy Baer, AAMC senior director and regulatory counsel, at ibaer@aamc.org