Recently, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine called into question the effectiveness of surgical checklists for preventing harm. Atul Gawande, one of the original researchers demonstrating the effectiveness of such checklists and author of a book on the subject, quickly wrote a rebuttal on the Incidental Economist. He writes, “I wish the Ontario study were better,” and I join him in that assessment, but want to take it a step further. Gawande first criticizes ...

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A respiratory physician who I worked for had an uncanny ability of predicting the diagnoses the admitting junior doctor would fail to consider in patients presenting acutely with difficulty in breathing. He was using a checklist, which he developed after years of observing his housestaff. As a surgical intern I was once praised for my presence of mind in cross matching blood for a patient with a rare blood group who ...

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I recently spoke to a quality measures development organization and it got me thinking -- what makes a good doctor, and how do we measure it? In thinking about this, I reflected on how far we have come on quality measurement.  A decade or so ago, many physicians didn’t think the quality of their care could be measured and any attempt to do so was “bean counting” folly at best or ...

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Imagine -- where would elective surgery be today if patients still worried about operating rooms exploding or developing liver and kidney failure from anesthesia? Having major surgery would be a very different experience without anesthesia.  Before the advent of safe anesthesia techniques, the world of surgery was basically limited to amputations and other attempts at life-saving maneuvers.  Dr. Bigelow's publication describing the safe administration of ether changed everything, and the New ...

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In my core, I always loved doing surgery, and being surgeon to my patients. As I hope I've made clear in my blog, I was always amazed that I was allowed to do it, and awed at the mysterious beauty of it all. As much of a responsibility as it is, it's also an inexplicably wondrous honor and privilege. Those words aren't lightly written. But in a diabolical ...

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Aviation and anesthesiology: The importance of trainingA guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to KevinMD.com. Comparisons between the airline industry and anesthesia care are common.  One of the most commonly heard analogies is that the takeoff and landing of a jetliner are similar to induction and emergence during a general anesthetic.  But there are other equally important analogies between the two ...

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On Twitter a while ago, a medical student asked me how surgical program directors select new residents. Then a discussion arose among some academic surgeons on the same topic. Someone suggested that medical school grades were the best way to tell whether an applicant would be a successful resident. The fact is that we aren't really sure what the best way to choose residents is. First, here's what we really do. A 2011 
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When it comes to surgery for cancer, having a “positive margin” is a bad thing.  It means that when the surgeon said he “got it all,” even though he meant it with all of his heart, likely he didn’t.  For a woman undergoing a lumpectomy for breast cancer, that positive margin means a re-excision of the lumpectomy site or alternatively, a mastectomy.  For a woman who has just had a ...

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In this post, I will do my best to try and address what is commonly said by doctors, dentists and lactation consultants who don't understand the correlation between tongue-tie and lip-tie and poor breastfeeding. I think that we must first disprove what they think they know. I think these myths are born out of a complete lack of education, and with time, hopefully we won't hear them as frequently. I've compiled a list ...

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We hold these truths to be self-evident:

A hospital administrator with a clipboard is in search of a physician who isn’t following “evidence-based guidelines.” There are fads in medicine just as there are in fashion -- today’s ”evidence-based guidelines” may be tomorrow’s malpractice.
Did your hospital, like so many, abruptly switch from povidone-iodine antiseptic solution to ChloraPrep® for cleaning a patient’s skin before surgery?  If so, I’m sure the staff was told that ChloraPrep would ...

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