Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Poor communication and record-keeping in surgical errors

Maryland residents may be interested in an article in the journal "JAMA Surgery" that examined major surgical errors in American hospitals. Called "never events" because they are never supposed to occur, these incidents happen in rare circumstances. The researchers in this study looked at surgical fires, wrong-site surgery and the incidence of objects such as sponges being left in a patient after surgery.

The review was conducted by researchers at the Evidence-based Practice Center of the RAND Corporation and involved 138 studies from 2004 to 2014. One difficulty researchers encountered was with inconsistent reporting methods. For example, state reporting records and eye doctor claims put the incidence of wrong-site surgery at .5 in 10,000 procedures. However, surveying eye doctors counted 4 out of 10,000. In addition, insufficient data meant that researchers were unable to track surgery fires. Overall, wrong site surgery occurred in about 1 out of 100,000 operations while objects left behind happened in about 1 out of every 10,000.

Researchers said that while a convergence of unique factors led to the never events, poor communication was usually a factor. They also recommended improved tracking of major surgical errors to better understand when they are likely to happen and how to avoid them.

An individual who has suffered from a surgical error may want to consult an attorney even if it is not a never event. Any kind of medical error during surgery can cause additional suffering and expense to an individual. If the error is the result of negligence, the individual may choose sue for medical malpractice compensation.

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