Senate committee deems concurrent surgeries unsafe, urges hospitals to ban them

After a nine-month review of 20 hospitals' concurrent surgery processes, the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to release a report Tuesday calling for all hospitals to forbid the practice, according to The Boston Globe.

For purposes of the report, the committee defined "concurrent surgery" as two operations managed by the same surgeon with critical parts of the surgery occurring at the same time. The report calls on all hospitals to end the practice, along with other recommendations mentioned below.

The committee's report follows new guidelines issued by the American College of Surgeons in April, which called for patients to be informed prior to operation if their surgeon would be performing a separate procedure on another patient simultaneously.

The Senate Finance Committee does not think those guidelines went far enough.

"While we are encouraged by the steps taken by the American College of Surgeons and a number of hospitals to address the concerns with concurrent surgeries, we remain concerned that the nearly 5,000 hospitals in America may lack thorough and complete policies covering these procedures and patient consent," reads a joint statement by committee chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) ranking Democrat on the committee, according to the Globe.

The committee also asks hospitals, not surgeons, to clarify the circumstances under which it is safe for surgeons to schedule operations that overlap even for a brief time; suggests authorizing anesthesiologists to cancel operations if surgeons violate policies; and urges hospitals to explicitly tell patients about any overlapping surgeries far enough in advance that they can decide whether to cancel the procedure.

The report clashes with a recent study conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which compared 10,614 overlapping surgeries with 16,111 non-overlapping procedures. Researchers found the practice of concurrent surgery at Mayo to be safe and not associated with an increased risk for adverse outcomes.

Among the 20 hospitals reviewed by the Senate committee, 17 revised or created new policies to address the practice of concurrent surgeries during the time of the committee's study, according to the Globe. The other three are currently in the process of revising their policies.

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