Up to 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors, and surgical errors alone cost our nation $1.5 billion a year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, citing previous studies. There may even be a serious underreporting of surgical errors. Many of these surgical errors are the result of poor practices and are completely preventable.
Common Types of Surgical Mistakes
Some of the most common – and devastating – types of surgical mistakes are wrong site surgeries. Wrong site surgeries include those involving any of these three things.
- A wrong patient
- A wrong procedure
- The wrong side of a patient's body
Even the conservative statistics are far from comforting; there are up to 20 wrong site and up to 20 wrong procedure surgeries performed in America per week, according to a 2012 Johns Hopkins report.
Other common mistakes made in the surgery room are listed below.
- Leaving a foreign object inside the patient
- Performing an unnecessary surgery
- Patient misidentification
- Accidental lacerations of organs
- Perforation of the colon, such as during a colonoscopy or polyp removal procedure
- Anesthesia mistakes (a miscalculation in dosage can be deadly)
- Damage or cutting of nerves or muscles (such as damage to the eye muscles during surgery for sinus pressure)
Causes of Surgical Errors
With all the training and protocols medical professionals have to undergo and abide by, why are surgical errors still such a large issue? Some mistakes occur because of faulty or rushed practices. Also, the mistakes can occur anywhere along the chain of operation, from the scheduling to pre-op, from the operating room to the entire hospital culture.
Below are just a few of the causes of surgical errors.
- Illegible writing
- Missing patient history, or failure to review the history
- Inconsistent and incorrect consent, surgeon booking order, or operating room schedule
- Failure to use or poor use of site marking practices
- Using stickers instead of proper site markers
- Rushing during patient identification
- Distraction during pre-op and in the surgical room
- Lack of focus on patient safety within the organization
- Inadequate staffing
- Lack of communication between medical staff and patients
Preventing Errors in Surgery
There are numerous steps that can be taken to prevent these types of mistakes from happening. Hospitals can create better practices and protocols, and then consistently implement them. They also can utilize an ongoing measurement system for identifying inconsistencies so they can address any issues.
Hospitals could also better implement their time-out procedures, a term used to describe the last few steps prior to surgery in an effort to prevent mistakes. Some of the steps for time-out procedures recommended by the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare are listed below.
- Ensure every team member has an active role in the process.
- The surgeon and scrub technician should perform a point and touch verification of the surgical site.
- Address the team’s questions and concerns prior to surgery.
- Reduce noise and cease needless activity in the operating room.
Consult a Medical Malpractice Attorney in Peachtree City
Patients have a right to safe, sound care. The Institute of Medicine defines patient safety as "freedom from accidental injury due to medical care or medical errors." When surgeons or others in the medical field fail to provide safe, adequate care – and make preventable mistakes that cause a patient injury – they can be legally liable in a medical malpractice suit.
If you or your loved one were the victim of a surgical error, call our medical malpractice attorney in Atlanta. Let us review your situation and determine if you have a solid case. Contact Jason Schultz for a free consultation today at 404-474-0804.