Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Surgery and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Patient safety in the operating room: an intervention study on latent risk factors

Martie van Beuzekom1*, Fredrik Boer12, Simone Akerboom3 and Patrick Hudson34

Author Affiliations

1 OR Centre, Leiden University Medical Centre, 9600,, 2300, RC Leiden, the Netherlands

2 Department of Anaesthesiology, Leiden University Medical Centre, 9600,, 2300, RC Leiden, the Netherlands

3 Department of Psychology, Leiden University, 95555, Leiden, the Netherlands

4 Department of Safety Science, Delft University, of Technology, Jaffalaan 5, 2628BX, Delft, the Netherlands

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Surgery 2012, 12:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-12-10

Published: 22 June 2012



Patient safety is one of the greatest challenges in healthcare. In the operating room errors are frequent and often consequential. This article describes an approach to a successful implementation of a patient safety program in the operating room, focussing on latent risk factors that influence patient safety. We performed an intervention to improve these latent risk factors (LRFs) and increase awareness of patient safety issues amongst OR staff.


Latent risk factors were studied using a validated questionnaire applied to the OR staff before and after an intervention. A pre-test/post-test control group design with repeated measures was used to evaluate the effects of the interventions. The staff from one operating room of an university hospital acted as the intervention group. Controls consisted of the staff of the operating room in another university hospital. The outcomes were the changes in LRF scores, perceived incident rate, and changes in incident reports between pre- and post-intervention.


Based on pre-test scores and participants’ key concerns about organizational factors affecting patient safety in their department the intervention focused on the following LRFs: Material Resources, Training and Staffing Recourses. After the intervention, the intervention operating room - compared to the control operating room - reported significantly fewer problems on Material Resources and Staffing Resources and a significantly lower score on perceived incident rate. The contribution of technical factors to incident causation decreased significantly in the intervention group after the intervention.


The change of state of latent risk factors can be measured using a patient safety questionnaire aimed at these factors. The change of the relevant risk factors (Material and Staffing resources) concurred with a decrease in perceived and reported incident rates in the relevant categories. We conclude that interventions aimed at unfavourable latent risk factors detected by a questionnaire focussed at these factors may contribute to the improvement of patient safety in the OR.