Safe Surgery Saves Lives

I’ve been translating an article on patient safety this week and in the course of my terminology research I came across the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist, a brief but useful reference on the subject. It’s available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, French and Russian, so I’m lucky that my language pair is covered.

The aim of the checklist is to review the essential points at three specific stages in a surgical procedure (before induction of anaesthesia, before skin incision and before the patient leaves the operating room) to reduce perioperative complications and improve surgical team communication. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete.

Here’s the checklist in English:

And here is the Spanish translation:

By coincidence, Jim Higginson tweeted about an interesting new review on the effect of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist on complication rate and communication this week. The review examines the checklist’s impact on morbidity and mortality, and on operating-room safety. Encouragingly, 90% of surgeons said they would want the checklist used if they were to undergo surgery themselves.

The World Health Organization coined the phrase “Safe Surgery Saves Lives” to promote its checklist. The Spanish translation on the WHO website is “La Cirugía Segura Salva Vidas”, which loses part of the alliteration and snappiness by adding the definite article, although the message is still there. How does it translate into your languages?

Image attribution: © Franck Boston –
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8 Responses to Safe Surgery Saves Lives

  1. Mark Bogan says:

    Good catch, Emma! Thank you for posting it.

  2. Thank you, Emma! Indeed, this list is very comprehensive, and I liked the point of introducing surgical team to the patient. This really makes patient feel safe.
    Russian translation is good, however, I’ve found 1 corky mistake in it. What do you think should I do? Write an e-mail to WHO?

    • Hi Yana, Yes, I’d definitely report a translation error if I were you. There’s a feedback form in this link: with “inaccurate information” in one of the drop-down lists. Maybe you could leave your comment there?

      • Hi Emma!
        Thank you, I’ve submitted my feedback to WHO.
        Just for you to know, here it sounds like:

        Dear All,

        My name is Yana Onikiychuk, I’m medical translator and interpreter from English into Russian.
        I’ve checked the Russian translation of Surgical Safety Checklist, and found one mistake in translation. Here it is: The sentence “Has sterility (including indicator results) been confirmed?” was translated into Russian as “Стерильность (включая показания приборов) подтверждена?” The word ‘indicators’ was mistranslated as ‘показания приборов’ (data from monitor – literal translation from Russian to English), while here should be told about sterility indicators. The correct translation would be “Стерильность подтверждена (с проверкой биологическими индикаторами)?” Here is the link to prove the correct usage of the term “биологические индикаторы”:биологические+индикаторы+стерилизации&oq=биологические+индикаторы+стерилизации&gs_l=hp.3..0i19j0i8i30i19.644.644.0.2022.…1c.2.sAzm6YD09gQ&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=b4afd31c8b03541d&bpcl=38897761&biw=1440&bih=838
        Hope this helps.

        Best wishes,


        Hope they will pay attention to this.

        • Well done for providing the feedback, Yana. The long link is broken here but maybe it was OK in the WHO contact form. I don’t speak any Russian, but can see that sterility indicators is the important point here, not other sorts of data or monitors. Let’s hope the Russian gets updated soon.

  3. Anne says:

    While writing such medical terms for safety precautions, the translator has to put the correct sentences and words as it is meant for human life, so he should put his total efforts to translate it exactly the same way with sense.

  4. Yvonne Becker says:

    Thank you very much for this post. I am a translator with a huge interest in medical translations and have enjoyed what I have read in your blog so far. I just downloaded the English and Spanish versions of this checklist to compare them

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