Globally, thousands of patients get harmed and injured from surgical errors. In the United States alone, at least 250,000 annual deaths are attributed to medical mistakes, according to a 2016 study conducted by Johns Hopkins.
While not all medical blunders are fatal, post-operative issues can still endanger the lives of patients. These can also result in prolonged hospitalization or permanent disability.
Below, you’ll find the likely reasons for surgical errors and their most common forms.
Potential Causes Of Surgical Errors
Surgical mistakes can happen for various reasons. These could include incompetence or lack of surgical training, miscommunication between and among the surgeon, the patient and their families, the nurses, and other operating room staff members. Inefficient workflow processes, surgical room protocols, and lack of staff can also negatively impact the procedure.
Surgical operations are done regularly throughout the world. No matter how common, each procedure always accompanies risks before, during, and after the process. Some of these issues may be manageable, while some are too serious, which can lead to the loss of lives. In such cases, you may approach injury lawyers like Kathryn Snapka and other medical malpractice attorneys for valuable legal advice.
5 Types Of Surgical Errors
Regardless of the reasons for the oversight, any medical error can scar a patient and their family for life. If someone you love is about to go under the knife, talk to your doctor or any healthcare staff members to reduce serious mistakes, such as the following:
- Operating On The Wrong Site
Operating on the wrong body part is also called ‘wrong side procedure’ or ‘wrong site surgery.’ It happens in one out of over 100,000 or 4.5 in 10,000 cases, depending on the procedure. These results were from a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety in March 2020.
Wrong site operations can lead to potential infections and unnecessary surgeries, especially if the surgeon fails to realize the mistake early on. As such, this increases a patient’s medical bills. while reducing their income opportunities due to missed work. To avoid severe effects and a potential lawsuit, medical practitioners must ensure that they’re getting the correct body part fixed, alongside having the right skills, and surgical equipment and tools.
- Wrong Patient Surgery
Apart from operating on the wrong site, erring surgeons may commit another serious offense: operating on the wrong patient. While relatively rare, this could happen, especially when the hospital staff fails to establish proper operating room protocols, such as pre-operative patient validation and lack of communication. Performing the wrong surgery on an individual is a grave mistake that can lead to life-threatening results.
- Performing The Wrong Surgery On A Patient
Another potentially fatal surgical mistake is performing the wrong type of operation on the right patient. Surgical error causes, as mentioned, may vary. But, in this specific case, miscommunication and faulty diagnosis are likely to be blamed. A wrong surgical procedure can lead to unnecessary injuries and potentially fatal complications, no matter the reason.
- Erratic Anesthesia Administration
Wrongful anesthetic administration may be one of the most common surgery-related errors. For instance, in the United Kingdom, studies suggest that errors concerning anesthetic administration happen once in every 133 cases, based on the article published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia or BJA.
Anesthesiologists who underdose a patient may cause the latter to remain conscious during the surgery and experience immense pain. Conversely, a patient who’s had more than enough may be deprived of oxygen in their bodies, leading to possible brain injuries and death. Nurses and anesthesiologists then must monitor a patient’s vital signs throughout the procedure.
- Leaving Foreign Objects Inside The Patient’s Body
Besides monitoring an individual’s vital signs, operating room staff must also ensure no foreign objects remain inside a patient. Retained surgical bodies, or RSBs, as they’re known medically, may be one of the most common surgical errors. It happens in 0.3 to 1.0 instances per 1,000 abdominal surgeries. At the same time, an estimated 1,500 annual cases are reported in the US, according to an article published in the Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences in 2017.
Common RSBs include sponges, gauze pads, and surgical tools, such as scalpels and clamps. These foreign bodies could cause infections and death if left inside the body for prolonged periods.
Adequate training, communication, and protocols can reduce surgical errors within the operating room. The medical staff must instinctively monitor the patient before, during, and after the procedure. They should also be mindful of the pieces of equipment and regularly communicate with the other team members. Additionally, post-operative care is also key to identifying and preventing severe complications.
Regardless of the nature and causes, surgical errors are often avoidable. When you suspect negligence on the part of your healthcare provider, seek the services of a skilled attorney and consider pursuing a medical negligence case against the erring healthcare staff.