Potentially life-threatening complications from surgery can be cut by about a third if hospitals introduce simple surgical checklists during each operation, the World Health Organisation said Wednesday.
"In specialities ranging from cardiac care to paediatric care, they could become as essential in daily medicine as a stethoscope," said Atil Gawande, author of a WHO study on the surgical safety checklist.
The checklist covers procedures like anaesthesia, appropriate infection control and team work in the operating room.
It is completed in a few minutes at three "critical" moments during surgical care: before an anaesthetic is administered, before the skin incision is carried out and before the patient leaves the operating room, according to the agency.
The study carried out in a variety of high and low income hospital settings around the world found that the rate of major complications following surgery fell from 11 to seven percent.
The rate of patient deaths after major operations was nearly halved from 1.5 to 0.8 percent, the WHO said.
"The concept of using a brief but comprehensive checklist is surprisingly new to us in surgery," Gawande explained.
"Not everyone on the operating teams was happy to try it. But the results were unprecedented and the teams became strong supporters," he added.
The WHO hopes that 2,500 hospitals around the world will introduce the system this year.
Some 7,688 patients - roughly half before a checklist was implemented and half afterwards - took part in the study.