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A cross-sectional overview of the first 4,000 incidents reported to webAIRS, a de-identified web-based anaesthesia incident reporting system in Australia and New Zealand

Australian and New Zealand Tripartite Anaesthesia Data Committee and Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, Melbourne, Victoria
• This article is a copy of a report submitted to ANZTADC. It has not been peer reviewed. It is published on behalf of ANZTADC at their request and with their permission.


webAIRS is a web-based de-identified anaesthesia incident reporting system, which was introduced in Australia and New Zealand in September 2009. By July 2016, 4,000 incident reports had been received. The incidents covered a wide range of patient age (<28 days to >90 years), American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status, and body mass index (<18.5 to >50 kg/m2). They occurred across a wide range of anaesthesia techniques and grade of anaesthesia provider, and over a wide range of anaesthetising locations and times of day. In a high proportion the outcome was not benign; about 26% of incidents were associated with patient harm and a further 4% with death. Incidents appeared to be an ever-present risk in anaesthetic practice, with extrapolated estimates exceeding 200 per week across Australia and New Zealand. Independent of outcomes, many anaesthesia incidents were associated with increased use of health resources. The four most common main categories of incident were Respiratory/Airway, Medication, Cardiovascular, and Medical Device/Equipment. Over 50% of incidents were considered preventable. The narratives accompanying each incident provide a rich source of information, which will be analysed in subsequent reports on particular incident types. The summary data in this initial overview are a sober reminder of the prevalence and unpredictability of anaesthesia incidents, and their potential morbidity and mortality. The data justify current efforts to better prevent and manage anaesthesia incidents in Australia and New Zealand, and identify areas in which increased resources or additional initiatives may be required.

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