Surgical errors persist despite technological interventions

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Startling new numbers from a reputable healthcare organization show that surgeons make more than 4,000 easily preventable mistakes every year. These missteps, which can lead to claims of medical malpractice, often involve simple problems such as leaving sponges or other foreign bodies inside of patients. Other mistakes involve operating on the wrong patient or operating on the wrong part of the patient.

Physician researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical Center say all of these surgical mistakes are easily avoidable. Unlike medical situations that involve subtle complications, surgical errors are generally blindingly obvious, which makes them ultimately inexcusable.

The study shows that 6 percent of patients died because of such injuries, while a third experienced permanent injury and the remainder was injured temporarily. Shockingly, only about 12 percent of surgical errors result in payouts from lawsuits.

Scientists say that their estimates in this study are likely low, considering the fact that relatively few Americans actually report adverse medical events that happen during surgery. Some people never know that they have a medical device sewn into their wound, for example, because items are usually only discovered after infection and irritation occurs. About 75 percent of sponges left inside of patients are never recovered or addressed, according to the report.

The errors continue to happen despite increasing efforts at most hospitals to prevent medical and surgical errors. New bar-scan technology allows surgeons to account for all materials that have been introduced into the surgical field, while indelible ink is often used to mark sites intended for surgery. Despite all of these safeguards, the human element still interjects and causes problems.

Do not count yourself among the 82 percent of victims that fail to recover financial damages because of surgical malpractice. Contact a qualified attorney today to discuss your legal options.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Surgeons make thousands of errors,” Laura Landro, Dec. 19, 2012.