Major surgical errors happen more often than most people want to think about. These errors can have life-changing consequences for patients. In some cases, the consequences are downright lethal.
According to a study published by the Journal of American Medicine, the leading cause of surgical errors is poor communication. The study looked at 138 “never events.” These included wrong-site surgery, retained surgical items, and fires that happened between 2004 and 2014. The study concluded that serious surgical errors occurred in roughly 1 in every 10,000 operations. With over 51 million surgeries conducted in 2014, it means these events occurred in more than 5,000 procedures last year.
Additionally, patients are at risk of suffering burns from surgical fires. It’s estimated that roughly 650 fires occur in operating rooms each year. Some of these fires are the result of malfunctioning equipment. However, most fires are because of misuse and failure to adhere to safety protocols.
Medical malpractice lawyers know that wrong-site surgeries are the most preventable form of medical malpractice in the operating room. The Universal Protocol has attempted to reduce these through a series of checks and verification measures surgeons and operating room personnel are supposed to conduct before commencing a surgical procedure.
Three of these crucial steps include:
- Verifying site location.
- Identifying instruments/medications required for the procedure.
- Clearly labeling the incision area.
The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) estimated that surgical and other medical errors caused approximately 400,000 deaths in 2014. That makes medical errors the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. The NPSF concluded that better training, communication, and stricter adherence to the established Universal Protocol by doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists could have prevented many of these.
Regulators and hospital staff have put their faith in improved communication and electronic health records. They have relied upon these to reduce surgical errors. Regrettably, it is clear these efforts haven’t been effective. If anything, it seems to be making the problem worse. That is because errors within electronic records are following patients onto the operating table.
To reduce the risk of suffering a surgical or other medical error, patients should inspect their medical records for accuracy. Before surgery, patients should verify procedures and treatments with their physicians, nurses, and anesthesiologist. By speaking up for their own healthcare, patients can reduce the possibility of becoming a statistic in the operating room.