VA Study Shows Surgical Errors Continue to Exist In Spite of Increased Scrutiny
The Veterans Administration has taken steps to improve patient safety at its clinics and minimize the possibility of errors, but as a new study shows, it continues to be plagued by serious surgical errors, both in and out of the operating room.
According to the study, there are five to ten incorrect surgical procedures performed at VA facilities each day. These errors include
Wrong site surgeries
The report, which comes out in this month's issue of the Archives of Surgery, is based on 342 surgical problems across 130 VA hospitals. Problems were tracked between 2001 to mid- 2006, and were divided into those that occurred inside the operating room and those that occurred outside the OR. The researchers examined adverse events, where the wrong procedure was performed, or procedures were performed on the wrong site or on the wrong patient. They also examined 130 "close calls," where a potential error was found just before the procedure was performed.
The researchers found that:
- Adverse events occurred in every 18,000 procedures.
- Most of these occurred because of poor communication among members of the surgical team, accounting for 21 percent of the errors.
- 50.9 percent of the adverse events occurred in the operating room, while 49.1 percent occurred elsewhere.
- Most adverse events occurred during ophthalmology and invasive radiology procedures, which accounted for 29.2 percent, followed by orthopedic procedures.
The VA system has higher standards of patient safety, so it is disconcerting to see that so many serious surgical errors still continue to occur in these facilities. It makes me wonder how bad the situation is outside the VA, where patient numbers are greater, in conjunction with overworked and stressed staff, and less oversight.
Jason Schultz is a Georgia medical malpractice lawyer helping injured victims of surgical and medical errors recover their rightful compensation.