Volume 9, No. 1 • Spring 1994

ASA Safety Tape Portrays OR "Catastrophe"

Ellison C. Pierce, Jr., M.D.

This film, with an introduction by Jan Davies, M.D., is a dramatization of a fictional anesthetic catastrophe in a suburban community hospital. Act I, “Catastrophe,” begins with Sonya Smith, 35 (married, the mother of two children and an O.R. nurse at the hospital), prepared for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Her classification is ASA Physical Status I and the presumption is that tracheal intubation will proceed without difficulty and the procedure without incident. General anesthesia is induced and the circulating nurse begins the abdominal preparation. Within five to ten minutes the patient develops hypotension, becomes hypoxic, and has a cardiac arrest. All efforts fail to resuscitate Sonya and she dies on the table. What went wrong? And why?

Act II recounts the debriefing of the catastrophe and the necessary steps to take following it. The investigation proceeds in Act III; the film concludes with an Epilogue.

Because of the subject matter, this is a must-see film for all anesthesiologists. The virtuoso cast and the expert narration by Paul Springle give a striking sense of reality to the fable of events presented.

Funded by the ASA, ‘An Anesthetic Catastrophe’ will be distributed by Burroughs-Wellcome in June 1994. Directed by Bob Dilts, the film was shot on location at the Foothills Hospital, Calgary, Alberta. Special thanks go to Muriel Shewchuk, Daniele Sikland, Tim Harmer, Bruce McKenzie, Diane Boudreau, Mark Seland, Paul Rotzinger, the Department of Anaesthesia, the Department of Surgery and the Administration of Foothills Hospital for their help and cooperation in making the videotape.

The scriptwriters were: Dr. J. M. Davies, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Dr. A. Bacon, Dandenong, Victoria, Australia; Dr. G. Purcell, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; and Dr. R. A. Caplan, Seattle, WA. GWF Associates, Holmdel, New Jersey, were the producers.

Dr. Pierce, APSF President, is Executive Producer of the ASA Patient Safety Videotape Series.