World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 1614–1621

Disclosure of Adverse Events and Errors in Surgical Care: Challenges and Strategies for Improvement


DOI: 10.1007/s00268-014-2564-5

Cite this article as:
Lipira, L.E. & Gallagher, T.H. World J Surg (2014) 38: 1614. doi:10.1007/s00268-014-2564-5


The disclosure of adverse events to patients, including those caused by medical errors, is a critical part of patient-centered healthcare and a fundamental component of patient safety and quality improvement. Disclosure benefits patients, providers, and healthcare institutions. However, the act of disclosure can be difficult for physicians. Surgeons struggle with disclosure in unique ways compared with other specialties, and disclosure in the surgical setting has specific challenges. The frequency of surgical adverse events along with a dysfunctional tort system, the team structure of surgical staff, and obstacles created inadvertently by existing surgical patient safety initiatives may contribute to an environment not conducive to disclosure. Fortunately, there are multiple strategies to address these barriers. Participation in communication and resolution programs, integration of Just Culture principles, surgical team disclosure planning, refinement of informed consent and morbidity and mortality processes, surgery-specific professional standards, and understanding the complexities of disclosing other clinicians’ errors all have the potential to help surgeons provide patients with complete, satisfactory disclosures. Improvement in the regularity and quality of disclosures after surgical adverse events and errors will be key as the field of patient safety continues to advance.

Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA