Articles Posted in Surgical Errors & Injuries

iv%20bag.jpgSome of the biggest medical hazards in 2014 involve alarm fatigue, robotic surgery complications, and medication errors from infusion pumps. According to the Emergency Care Research Institute, which has just released its list of the top 10 medical tech hazards for 2014, the biggest hazard we need to look out for this year is alarm fatigue.

The list includes a number of serious medical technology hazards that hospitals need to look out for the coming year. Some hazards featured on the list with alarming regularity every year, while other problems are fairly new; although the Institute believes that these problems have the potential to become serious hazards in the coming year. The good news is that all of these risks are entirely preventable.

Topping the list in 2014 is an alarm fatigue. This problem has already received a fair amount of attention in this blog. Alarm fatigue is a serious risk to patient care and refers to the kind of distractions that plague nurses who are exposed to dozens of medical alarms drinking continuously throughout their working day. At some point in time, nurses become desensitize to the frequent nature of these alarms and choose to simply ignore them, or worse, may unintentionally miss out on important alarms. This is a serious patient safety risk, and the only feasible solution is to reduce the number of medical alarms by eliminating those that may not be completely necessary.
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surgery.jpgLast year alone, doctors across the country performed more than 350,000 surgical procedures using the Da Vinci robotic surgery system. In spite of the prolific use of robotic systems, the federal administration still lags behind in collecting accurate information about the use of these devices and surgical errors resulting from such use.

According to a report recently published in Bloomberg, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is failing miserably in calculating accurate data about the use of robotic surgery systems in the United States. The FDA maintains a database of all injury reports, caused by the surgical system but the Agency has no legal authority to force hospitals or doctors to report any errors that occur with the use of the surgery systems or any injuries that result. Hospitals are required to report the number of errors that occur when using the systems, but they very often fail to comply with those rules. As a result, whatever data is contained in the FDA database is woefully inadequate.
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wheelchair1.jpgAccording to new data on medical errors in Indiana for the year 2012, as reported by the Indiana State Department of Health, bedsores and surgical errors constitute some of the most frequent errors reported by hospitals in 2012.

There were 30 incidents involving bedsores reported in 2012. That was a drop from 41 errors reported in 2011. According to the report, the average number of bedsores reported every year is approximately 30, and severe bedsores, or pressure ulcers, have been the most frequently reported medical errors in six of the seven years since the Indiana State Department of Health began compiling the Medical Errors Report.

Overall, a total of 2,100 medical errors were reported in 2012. That was the same number reported back in 2011.
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surgery%20phones.jpgIt’s fairly common for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to use smart phones in the operating room (OR). They may check medication dosages or search for important medical information. However, sometimes, those cell phones are used for non-medical purposes and a nursing group says that when that happens, there’s a serious risk of medical errors.

There are a number of reasons why doctors and nurses may use cell phones in a operating room. For instance, sometimes a doctor may need to text the patient’s relatives for important information, or may need to look up information about the disease. There’s no doubt that the use of smart phones is important in the OR.

However, in an increasing number of cases, doctors as well as nurses are using smart phones for non-medical reasons inside the operating room. According to a report by NPR, you can now find medical personnel chatting, looking at Facebook status updates, playing games, and performing a variety of other non-medical-related activities using their smart phones in the operating room.
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clamps.jpgIn spite of ongoing efforts to reduce the incidence of medical errors, American surgeons make as many as 4,000 preventable medical errors every year. Those findings come from new research conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers, and published in Surgery journal.

A patient shouldn’t check into a hospital for surgery, and end up with a surgical sponge sewn inside his body. He should not have to worry that the surgical team will operate on the wrong part of his body, or will perform the wrong surgical procedure on him. No patient should have to worry that he will have a surgical procedure performed on him, when he’s not in line for surgery at all.
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wrong%20site%20surgery.jpgEvery week, there is at least one wrong site surgery occurring in a hospital or clinic somewhere in the United States. This is a surgery in which the surgeon operates on the wrong part of the body. Such mistakes may seem fantastical to the general public, but as Indiana medical malpractice attorneys will tell you, these incidents are far too common to brush aside.

Recently, Becker’s Clinical Quality and Infection Control ran a list of 8 steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of wrong site surgery.

The number one factor that must be in place in order to minimize the risk of wrong site surgery in a hospital is a culture that holds that patient safety is paramount. This culture must be ingrained not just in the people on the ground like the nurses, surgeons and junior doctors, but also the management. There must be frequent discussions about the topic in the form of regular e-mails, and conferences.
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surgical%20lights.jpgSurgical site infections that develop after a person has undergone a hip or knee replacement, and which are severe enough to require readmission back into the hospital, cost the US health care system approximately $65 million every year. That information comes from an analysis of data that was presented recently at a meeting of the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

The researchers analyzed health insurance claims belonging to approximately 40 million insured adults. They were looking at employer-provided health plans, and the re-hospitalization rates for persons who had undergone hip and knee replacements. There were specifically looking at the cost of hip and knee replacement surgeries, beyond the actual cost of the initial hospitalization.

Hip and knee replacement surgeries were included in this study because these are typically complicated and long drawn-out procedures. Treatment for an infected joint may be complex, and may stretch out over a long period of time. Additionally, these persons may be on a extensive course of antibiotics, and may also be at a risk of additional surgeries.
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drink.jpgAlcohol abuse and addiction issues are much more prevalent among American surgeons than believed. According to a new survey, approximately 15% of surgeons struggle with alcohol abuse or alcohol dependency issues, a rate that is much higher than the average alcohol dependency rate among the general population.

The survey was conducted in 2010, and included doctors who were members of the American College of Surgeons. According to the survey which has been published in the Archives of Surgery February issue, approximately 14 % of male surgeons in the US report alcohol dependence, compared to 26% of female surgeons. Taken together, these rates of alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction among surgeons is much higher than the 8% to 12% rate that is believed to exist in the general population.

The researchers, however, mention that it’s highly unlikely that a surgeon would be so impaired by the use of alcohol that he would make serious medical errors. According to the researchers, the risk of a patient being harmed by a surgeon operating under the influence of alcohol is something like 1 in 10,000.
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Stereotactic radiosurgery is designed to use minute amounts of radiation to treat tiny tumors, like those in the brain and spinal cord. The New York Times is continuing its series on radiation errors in the nation’s hospitals, and has found that this highly sophisticated and complex therapy too has been linked to serious errors.

Stereotactic radiosurgery typically requires highly expensive equipment called a Gamma Knife, a complicated piece of medical equipment. Many hospitals and facilities can’t afford the extra expenses involved in purchasing the equipment and setting aside a specific room for it. Several hospitals have begun to use linear accelerators instead. These devices are already designed to deliver targeted amounts of radiation to specific spots in the body. The linear accelerators are equipped with a cone attachment that allows them to emit the required amount of high-intensity radiation to the exact site of the tumor without affecting the surrounding tissue.
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