In 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.
These errors belong to a category known as “never events”, meaning that they never should have occurred. Doctors and others in the medical community agree unanimously that these events should never occur in any hospital. Unfortunately, the reality is that these events occur far too often in American surgical suites.
The researchers based their findings on data which they derived from the National Practitioner Data Bank, analyzing more than 9,700 cases of preventable medical errors. These errors included everything from wrong site surgeries, wrong patient surgeries to wrong surgical procedures or surgical items left behind in the patient’s body.
The researchers found close to 10,000 instances involving surgical implements and aids like sponges left behind in the patient’s body after a surgery, wrong surgical procedures, wrong patient surgeries and wrong site surgeries. In the cases that were analyzed, just over 6% of the patients were injured seriously enough to succumb to their injuries. About 33% of the patients suffered permanent injuries as a result of these errors. Over 59% of these patients suffered temporary injuries as a result of these errors.
The researchers estimate that 4,082 surgical mistakes are made in American hospitals every year. 70% of those cases actually go unreported. Indemnity payments are made only in about 12% of surgical adverse events, which means that the actual number of errors could be much higher.
Medical experts insist that there have been a lot of improvements made in reducing the incidence of medical errors. They especially cite the increasing and widespread use of checklists. The use of checklists is an internationally accepted tool to reduce the risk of errors, and has helped stem the flow of such errors to some extent. Hospitals also insist that they have made improvements in communication between staff members in the surgical room, as well as training of staff in working as a cohesive unit. Many hospitals have implemented the use of technology in order to reduce the risk of errors.
Clearly, those efforts need to be accelerated, and expanded in more hospitals to further reduce the numbers of such preventable errors.
The Indiana medical malpractice attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent persons injured due to medical negligence across Indiana.