Research Shows Anesthesia Safety at All-Time High

  • Jan 27, 2015

Care provided by nurse anesthetists plays major role

For Immediate Release: January 27, 2015    
For More Information Contact:   Armentia Snyder
Park Ridge, Illinois—Patients receiving anesthesia for surgery, labor and delivery, trauma care, or chronic pain management should know that anesthesia has never been safer whether it is provided by a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or anesthesiologist, according to numerous recent research studies. During this year’s National CRNA Week (January 25 – 31), the 48,000 members of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) are celebrating patient safety and highlighting landmark research findings that confirm the safe, cost-effective anesthesia care CRNAs provide.
National CRNA Week was established by the AANA to reassure patients about anesthesia safety, and to educate the public about the benefits of receiving anesthesia care from CRNAs. Nurse anesthetists safely deliver more than 34 million anesthetics to patients each year in the United States, staying with their patients throughout their procedure, vigilantly monitoring their vital signs and providing anesthetic drugs as necessary.
“CRNAs are the only group of anesthesia professionals for which there is a wealth of current research data confirming their ability, safety record, and cost-effectiveness,” said Sharon Pearce, CRNA, MSN, AANA president. “Back in 1999, the Institute of Medicine published its sentinel report ‘To Err is Human,’ in which anesthesia was presented as one of the safest healthcare services—in fact, nearly 50 times safer than it had been in the 1980s. Since then, multiple studies conducted about anesthesia safety have confirmed that anesthesia is not only safe, but that it is equally safe when provided by a CRNA working alone, an anesthesiologist working alone, or the two providers working collaboratively.
“When the AANA reassures the patient community that anesthesia care provided by CRNAs is of the highest quality, the association’s statements are supported by data,” Pearce concluded.
Of the research conducted to date, none more definitively confirms nurse anesthesia safety than “No Harm Found When Nurse Anesthetists Work Without Supervision By Physicians,” conducted by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) and published in the August 2010 issue of Health Affairs, the nation’s leading health policy journal. RTI examined 500,000 individual cases in 14 states that had opted out of the Medicare physician supervision requirement for CRNAs, and found that there is no difference in anesthesia safety when patients receive their anesthesia care from a CRNA working alone, an anesthesiologist working alone, or the two providers working together.
Other recent important studies that substantiate the safety and cost-effectiveness of CRNAs include:

  • Cost Effectiveness Analysis of Anesthesia Providers, Nursing Economic$
  • Anesthesia Staffing and Anesthetic Complications During Cesarean Delivery, Nursing Research
  • Anesthesia Provider Model, Hospital Resources and Maternal Outcomes, Health Services Research
  • Surgical Mortality and Type of Anesthesia Provider, AANA Journal
  • Physician Anaesthetists Versus Non-Physician Providers of Anesthesia for Surgical Patients, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

To access a complete listing of CRNA-related research, go to
In addition, the Institute or Medicine’s Future of Nursing Report from 2010 strongly endorsed expanding the role of nurses in the U.S. healthcare system to help meet the growing demand for medical services. The IOM report urged policymakers to remove barriers that hinder nurses—particularly advanced practice registered nurses such as CRNAs – from practicing to the full extent of their education and training.
About Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists

CRNAs are the hands-on providers of more than 34 million anesthetics given to patients each year in the United States. As advanced practice registered nurses, CRNAs attain 7-8 years of education, training, and critical care nursing experience resulting in a master’s or doctoral degree. They deliver anesthesia to patients in the same types of facilities, for the same types of procedures, and using the same techniques and standards of care as anesthesiologists. CRNAs practice in every setting where anesthesia is available and are the sole anesthesia providers in more than two-thirds of all rural hospitals.
About the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

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