The World Health Organization unveiled Tuesday a safety checklist to be used in operating rooms around the world aimed at reducing the risks of complications resulting from major surgery.
According to the WHO, half of the complications resulting from major surgery may be preventable.
Major surgery occurs at a rate of 234 million medical procedures per year -- one for every 25 people -- and studies indicate that a significant percentage of them result in preventable complications and deaths, the WHO reports.
"Preventable surgical injuries and deaths are now a growing concern," said Margaret Chan, the director general of the Geneva-based WHO said in a statement.
"Using a checklist is the best way to reduce surgical errors and improve patient safety," Chan said in a statement.
Studies have shown that in industrial nations, major complications are reported in between three and 16 percent of surgical procedures, according to the WHO.
"In developing countries, studies suggest a death rate of five to 10 percent during major surgery," while mortality rates from general anesthesia alone "is reported to be as high as one in 150 in parts of sub-Saharan Africa," it said.
Although there have been major improvements in surgical operations over the last decades, "the quality and safety of surgical care has been dismayingly variable in every part of the world," said Atul Gawande, a surgeon and Harvard University professor.
The WHO's checklist initiative is the result of a work directed by the Harvard School of Public Health involving more than 200 medical organizations from around the world, including the health ministries of several countries.
The checklist, developed under Gawande's leadership, "identifies a set of surgical safety standards that can be applied in all countries and health settings."
Preliminary results from patients at eight pilot sites "indicate that the checklist has nearly doubled the likelihood that patients will receive proven standards of surgical care," the WHO said.
"This has thus far resulted in substantial reductions in complications and deaths," it said.