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OB Guideline 28: Communication Prior to Obstetrical Surgery


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OB Guideline 28: Communication Prior to Obstetrical Surgery

Related to: Clinical Guidelines, Communication, Nursing, Obstetrics

Each institution will develop guidelines for communication prior to obstetrical surgery.1-3  Guidelines should include specific items to be communicated by the surgical team, which may include the obstetrician, surgical assistant, scrub nurse or scrub tech, circulating nurse, and the anesthesiologist. Communication should be ongoing and may include a preoperative briefing of the surgical team in addition to the formal time-out (surgical pause).


The purpose of a briefing is to gather the care team together prior to moving to the operating room in order to introduce members of the team, confirm that the correct documentation is present (e.g., history and physical, consents) and to assure the team has a shared mental model regarding the planned procedure.

Time Out 

The purpose of a time-out is to confirm correct patient and procedure immediately prior to initiation of the procedure/surgery. A standardized, scripted, interactive time-out should be performed before each obstetrical procedure, including but not limited to: cesarean delivery, external cephalic version, peripartum hysterectomy, and dilation and evacuation. The time-out should be documented in the patient’s record. Content and timing of the time-out should be addressed in the institutional guidelines.

Items that should be considered for inclusion for communication during the briefing and the time-out.

  • confirmation of patient identity from two sources;
  • confirmation of planned procedure(s);
  • confirmation of patient allergies;
  • confirmation of completed consent;
  • confirmation of antibiotic request or administration: prophylactic, otherwise, or none needed;
  • factors that may significantly affect the length of time for the surgical procedure (such as, but not limited to, placenta previa, multiple previous surgeries, known previous adhesions, fibroid uterus);
  • anticipated need for pediatric providers for the birth;
  • anticipated need for blood products;
  • anticipated need for special or additional equipment;
  • other planned procedures, such as tubal ligation; and
  • other existing pathology that should be evaluated at the time of the procedure (such as a previously noted ovarian cyst).

In an emergency, when any delay is inadvisable, the staff should cover as many of these items as possible while preparing or in the initial phases of the case.

In general, surgical marking is seldom required in obstetrical procedures. If unilaterality in approach and planned procedure exists, institutional guidelines should be established in order to standardize surgical marking.

  1. Obstetrical surgery includes, but may not be limited to, cesarean delivery, cerclage placement, postpartum tubal ligation, and dilation and evacuation (D&E).
  2. Patient safety in the surgical environment. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 464. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;116:786–90.
  3. Joint Commission Universal Protocol. Effective July 1, 2004, Available at:




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May 1, 2014
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