ASA Meeting Exhibits Highlight Patient Safety

Robert C. Morell, MD

Patient safety was again the focus of many scientific and education exhibits on display at the 2001 ASA Annual Meeting held in New Orleans in October. The APSF’s Ellison C. Pierce Award for the best scientific exhibit related to patient safety was awarded to a group from the University of Florida College of Medicine, led by Samsun Lampotang, PhD. Their exhibit was entitled a “Web-Based Educational Animation of an Anesthesia Machine. This “virtual anesthesia machine” is an interactive, computer simulation which allows users to manipulate and adjust controls similar to a real anesthesia machine and ventilator and observe the effects of their actions. This exhibit highlighted the developers’ conviction that “promoting a better understanding of the anesthesia machine will ultimately reduce the potential for operator error during normal operation and decrease the time to diagnosis and resolution of machine malfunctions.” It is available free of charge worldwide over the Internet at www.anest.ufl.edu/vam.

Airway Exhibits Prominent

Airway related exhibits again played a prominent role and included a model for assessing preoxygenation techniques presented by a team from Illinois Masonic Medical Center. Difficult airway management was the focus of an exhibit detailing the Johns Hopkins Difficult Airway System, and a display of a Difficult Airway Cart was presented by a group from Englewood Medical Center in New Jersey. Dr. Osborn and colleagues from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City presented an “Airway Play Station” and classified and demonstrated various airway management techniques. A team from the University of California Irvine and Long Beach Veteran’s Affairs Healthcare System provided a comprehensive display and comparison of numerous tracheal appliances, and a group from Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles used a video enhanced laryngoscopy system to visualize the effects of external laryngeal manipulation. This system allows a student, resident, or assistant to perform a laryngoscopy while the supervising attending anesthesiologist has a simultaneous and comprehensive view, thereby coordinating their efforts and facilitating instruction.

One exhibit, presented by Dr. Paul Reynolds of the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences outlined the importance of proper planning and response considerations for disasters or mass casualties. This was particularly timely in light of recent events and ongoing concerns regarding organized responses to terrorist activities.

Presentation of the Ellison C. Pierce Research Award for Best Scientific Exhibit to University of Florida Team led by Samsun Lamptotang, PhD.

International Concerns

International safety concerns were addressed by an exhibit presented by Interplast (a nonprofit organization providing free reconstructive surgery to children around the world), which is also dedicated to transferring anesthesia knowledge and skills to developing countries. REMEDY (Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World) provided information to facilitate recycling and transferring unused surgical supplies to third world and developing countries. Health Volunteers Overseas (Washington, D.C.) provided materials illustrating how well trained and motivated providers can improve anesthesia care in other countries. The World Anesthesia Society has the goal of promoting anesthesia in developing countries and displayed their journal, Update in Anaesthesia, that provides practical information (available in six languages) for those working in isolated and/or difficult conditions. This journal is also available on the Internet at www.nda.ox.ac.uk/wfsa/.

A new approach to monitoring the degree of neuromuscular blockade was proposed by a team from the University of Arkansas which demonstrated that both the magnitude of muscle twitch and the direction are important in determining muscle twitch strength. They believe that using the “vector” approach (which requires both determining magnitude and direction of a force) will provide more accurate assessment of the degree of neuromuscular blockade and have less potential for error compared to strain gauge force transduction, electromyography, or piezo-electric accelerometry. Finally, numerous other societies with interests in patient safety were represented. These included the Society for Technology in Anesthesia (STA), The Society for Airway Management, The Society for Education in Anesthesia (SEA), The Society for Ambulatory Anesthesia (SAMBA), The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), The American Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists (ASCCA), The International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS), and The International Trauma Anesthesia and Critical Care Society (ITACCS).