oa Southern African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia - The response of theatre personnel to the pulse oximeter alarm : original research
Background: False alarms and sounds in the operating theatre (OT) that alert personnel to a crisis can be irritating. This can result in personnel ignoring genuine alarm warnings. This study was carried out to determine how alert OT personnel are in response to the pulse oximeter alarm.
Method: For the purposes of the study, 144 elective and 126 emergency cases, comprising 189 general anaesthesia and 81 regional anaesthesia cases, were included. After ensuring that the patients were physiologically stable, a false pulse oximeter alarm was activated. No other alarms were triggered. The first person to respond, time taken to respond, and the mode of action taken, were recorded. If no action resulted, the alarm was terminated a minute later.
Results: The anaesthesiologist was the most alert (p-value < 0.05), with a median time taken to respond of nine (4-14) seconds. The emergency OT personnel were significantly more alert than the elective OT personnel, with a p-value of < 0.001. The level of readiness was similar in both general anaesthesia and regional anaesthesia cases [ 9.5 seconds (4.0-14.05) vs. 10 seconds (5-15)]. In 53% of cases, the first person to respond attended to the patients; in 30.7% of cases, they checked the monitor; and in 5.6% of cases, the pulse oximeter alarm was deactivated. The pulse oximeter alarm was ignored, and no action taken, in 10.7% of cases.
Conclusion: The anaesthesiologists were the most alert in responding to the pulse oximetry alarm, although, alarmingly, no action was taken in 10.7% of cases.
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