Ask HRC: When a Surgeon Has to Leave the OR

January 29, 2007 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance


An HRC member recently asked us about policies for situations when a surgeon must leave the operating room (OR) on an emergency basis, such as if he or she becomes suddenly ill. The member notes that many procedures are now performed without a first assistant, and small facilities without a second surgeon in-house may be especially vulnerable to this kind of emergency.

In response, we turned to the American College of Surgeons' (ACS) Statement on Principles (November 2005). In the document, ACS states that a "qualified substitute for the surgeon must be identified and present in the operating room promptly" if the primary surgeon becomes ill. The hospital needs to establish a process for each surgical department to name an on-call or back-up surgeon for such situations; the hospital should review the process annually. These measures could be addressed in...

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