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Preventable Surgical Errors Place Patients at Risk in Indiana and Nationwide

Going under the knife is risky, but the possibility for medical errors reportedly makes doing so even more dangerous than you may realize. Unfortunately, doctors still operate on the wrong body part or inadvertently leave items such as medical tools inside patients. According to an analysis recently published in Patient Safety in Surgery, about half of all adverse events that take place in a medical setting, such as a hospital, are related to surgical procedures.

Hospitals across the country are apparently using data regarding preventable mistakes to attempt to reduce surgical errors. A 2012 Johns Hopkins study found that more than 4,000 medical malpractice claims each year resulted from so-called “never events.” This term is used to describe egregious errors that should never occur in a medical setting. Between 1990 and 2010, nearly one-third of patients who suffered a never event experienced a permanent injury, and almost 60 percent experienced a temporary injury. Tragically, 6.6 percent of patients died as a result of never event mistakes. In addition, never events resulted in at least $1.3 billion in medical malpractice payouts.

Many hospitals in the United States are now participating in the American College of Surgeons’ National Surgical Quality Improvement Project (“NSQIP”). Between 1991 and 2006, the group reportedly worked to reduce postoperative death rates by nearly 50 percent. The organization now assists approximately 600 hospitals with gathering and analyzing data regarding postoperative complications. It also provides participating facilities with the resources required to address recognized safety gaps. In addition, NSQIP hospitals may compare their clinical data with that of other facilities. According to the NSQIP, about 100,000 lives would be saved and nearly 2.5 million surgical complications might be prevented if all hospitals in the U.S. participated in the program.

In addition to analyzing surgical data, hospitals are now using patient assessments in an effort to predict who may experience an adverse surgery result. For example, an individual who is suffering from poor health or who has reacted poorly to anesthesia in the past may be counseled to delay or forego elective surgery following a patient assessment. Such information is also being used to more adequately prepare patients for surgical procedures by placing them on preventative medications ahead of time.

Interestingly, some hospitals are reportedly undergoing teamwork training in an effort to ensure positive patient outcomes. At such facilities, additional safety protocols are put in place and staff are encouraged to speak up regarding their safety concerns. Many hospitals also benefit from a zero tolerance policy for surgeons or others who use intimidation or refuse to abide by facility safety measures.

Unfortunately, surgeons often make preventable mistakes even though they have a duty to perform surgical procedures with the utmost care. Minor lapses in judgment can result in serious injury or untimely death for patients who trust their lives to surgeons. If you or someone you love was injured by a surgical error, you should speak with an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney as soon as you are able. To discuss your rights with a knowledgeable Northwest Indiana medical malpractice lawyer today, call Theodoros & Rooth, P.C. at (219) 212-2462 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

How to Make Surgery Safer, by Laura Landro, Wall Street Journal