A brief history of the patient safety movement in Anaesthesia

William B. Runciman, Alan F. Merry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Approaches to safety began slowly. It took a century for ether to fully replace chloroform and for PIN indexing to be introduced for gas cylinders. In the 1960's Holland in Australia and Harrison in South Africa initiated longitudinal anaesthesia mortality studies and showed a decline from 1:10,000 to 1:20,000 cases for fit patients. The relative safety of anaesthesia was confirmed by a large scale medical record review in 1990. In the 1980's Cooper introduced incident monitoring and Cheney started the closed claim study. Dealing with the lessons from these was improved by the development of realistic simulation for teaching and pre-compiled responses for the management of crises. These advance underpinned the worldwide introduction of pulse oximetry, anaesthesia safety standards and check lists. Systematic improvement in drugs, equipment, techniques, infrastructure, training and the status of anaesthetists has underpinned the remarkable improvements in patient safety to date and further improvements in these areas will maintain the place of anaesthesia as a role model for patient safety.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wondrous Story of Anesthesia
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781461484417
ISBN (Print)1461484405, 9781461484400
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Oct 2014


  • Anasthesia Patient Safety Foundation
  • Australian Patient Safety Foundation
  • Development of anesthesia in Australia and New Zealand
  • History of anesthesia in Australia and New Zealand
  • History of patient safety and anesthesia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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