[Anesthesia problem cards-indispensable yet problematic : Nationwide survey on experiences from clinical practice]

M Schieren, A Böhmer, W Golbeck, J Defosse, F Wappler, H E Marcus
Der Anaesthesist 2018, 67 (4): 264-269

BACKGROUND: Anesthetic procedures may lead to severe and potentially life-threatening complications (e. g. difficult airway, allergic reactions, malignant hyperthermia). Most complications can be avoided in future anesthetic procedures with adequate preparation (e. g. awake intubation, trigger-free anesthesia). In Germany, anesthesia problem cards were introduced two decades ago to identify patients at risk and to increase patient safety by creating a standardized documentation system for anesthesia-related complications. The purpose of our study was to evaluate the utility and problems of anesthesia problem cards in clinical practice.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: All registered members of the German Society of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine (DGAI) and the Professional Association of German Anesthesiologists (BDA) (n = 19,042) were invited to participate in an online survey on patient safety. A subsection of the survey focused specifically on anesthesia problem cards and their utility in clinical practice (e. g. field of application, issuing procedures, benefits and problems).

RESULTS: The survey subsection on anesthesia problem cards was completed by 1783 participants. Most agreed that anesthesia problem cards are a useful tool to increase patient safety (n = 1502; 84.2%) and that they are routinely issued after the occurrence of anesthesia-related complications (n = 1664, 93.4%). One of the major problems noted was that patients frequently forget to bring their anesthesia problem cards when presenting for the preanesthetic assessment. This was observed by 1457 participants (81.7%). Furthermore, the information provided on anesthesia problem cards may be inadequately phrased (n = 874; 49.0%) or illegible (n = 833; 46.7%). In addition, the space for individual comments or problem solutions is insufficient (n = 811; 45.5%). Replacements for lost anesthesia problem cards with identical informational content can be issued in only 41.9% (n = 747) of the participants' departments.

CONCLUSION: Anesthesia problem cards are considered a useful tool to increase patient safety and are frequently issued in clinical practice; however, in the document's current form its full potential for risk minimization cannot be exploited. Structural changes are required to increase documentation quality and reproducibility. Concerning its informational content, the spectrum of included complications and their individual solutions need to be expanded to meet the requirements of modern anesthetic practice.

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