Study Reveals Thousands Of Preventable Surgical Errors Occur Annually In U.S.

Placing your well-being in the care of a medical professional is always somewhat unnerving, requiring a degree of trust in another’s abilities not often needed in our daily lives. Consequently, when a physician’s actions are negligent and result in entirely preventable harm, we understandably seek avenues to recover.

Unfortunately, a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has disclosed the frequency with which surgeons are guilty of making preventable errors while in the operating room. According to the study, an average of 4,082 surgical errors that are completely preventable – referred to as “never events” – occur in American operating rooms every year.

The types of incidents considered “never events” include when surgeons operate on the wrong side of the body or perform the wrong procedure. In addition, an incident in which a foreign object, such as a sponge, is left inside the body following an operation falls under the category of a “never event.”

The researchers analyzed over 9,700 incidents between 1990 and 2010 when medical malpractice awards were given to patients who had suffered from a preventable “never event.”

According to the report, almost 50 percent of those incidents involved a surgeon failing to remove an object from the patient’s body before concluding the surgery. Often, in those cases, patients later suffer severe infections as a result of the foreign object – sometimes resulting in another surgical procedure to remove the item.

Not surprisingly, these surgical errors almost always resulted in some type of harm to the patient. In almost 60 percent of the cases, the patient suffered a temporary injury. In addition, about 33 percent of the errors led to permanent harm and another 6 percent of the surgical patients died as a result of the error.

The lead author of the study reported that the researchers suspect their estimates are lower than the actual incidents of “never events,” as some patients never file malpractice suits. Additionally, in some cases – such as the failure to remove a foreign object – the error may never be discovered, if the patient does not develop a complication following the operation.

Some hospitals are taking steps to reduce surgical errors

Due to the severity of these incidents, hospitals in Ohio and across the country have taken steps to prevent these dangerous errors in the operating room. Many surgeons now take a moment – often referred to as a “timeout” – before starting the procedure. During that time, the surgical staff rechecks the patient’s identity and the type and location of the procedure about to be performed. These simple steps have been found to reduce negligent errors, such as performing an operation on the wrong side of the patient’s body.

In addition, some operating rooms now use surgical sponges that contain bar codes. Before closing the patient, the surgeon can use a special scanner to identify whether any sponges have been left inside the patient.

When a patient is the victim of a preventable surgical error, the impact is often long lasting. In many cases, the surgical patient will require additional medical care – and possibly other surgical procedures – to reverse the harm caused. Not only does additional medical care lead to increasing expenses, many times the care will lead to longer leaves of absence from work while the patient recovers. If you are in a similar situation, a skilled Ohio personal injury attorney will ensure you receive just compensation.

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