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How common are surgical errors?

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

No matter how routine the medical procedure, patients almost always approach it with trepidation. In many cases, this concern is warranted. Whether it is a surgical error, error in patient monitoring, anesthesia error or pharmacy error, a patient’s life might quite literally hang in the balance.

While many patients see a surgical error as a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, information tracked by the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) provides overwhelming statistics. For example, Johns Hopkins University once collated 20 years of information from the database to track surgical “never events” – these are events that should never happen during a surgical procedure. Never events can include scenarios such as wrong-site surgery, leaving a foreign object in the body or performing a procedure on an incorrect patient. Unfortunately, the study highlighted numerous facts. On average:

  • More than 4,000 surgical never events occur each year in the United States
  • More than 39 foreign object-related never events occur every week
  • The study found that wrong site or wrong procedure never events occurred nearly 20 times each week

A surgical mishap can have devastating repercussions for not only the patient but his or her entire family. A wrong-site surgery can involve the removal of a healthy internal organ or the amputation of the wrong appendage. These are errors that make a full recovery impossible. In severe situations, the surgical error can result in the death of a patient.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities must institute numerous checks and balances to reduce or eliminate these errors. Surgical teams must take caution while ensuring they are performing the correct procedure on the correct patient. Additionally, the facility must require careful monitoring to identify any negative reactions to anesthesia or post-operative medication.