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Human behavior-related surgical errors

Jun 11, 2015 | Surgical Errors

New York patients should be informed about the potential consequences of major surgical errors. These are often called ‘never events" because they should never happen, but they still do. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic identified 69 of these ‘never events" among 1.5 million invasive procedures that were performed over the course of five years at the Minnesota facility and detailed why each one occurred. The researchers identified characteristics that led to the never events as organizational, environmental and individual, and they discovered that 628 human factors contributed to the surgical errors. Around four to nine errors occurred per event.

The ‘never events" examined in the study included 24 counts of performing the wrong procedure, 22 counts of performing surgery on the wrong site or even on the wrong side of the body, five counts of putting in the wrong implant, and 18 counts of leaving an object inside the patient after the surgery was concluded. All of these errors occurred at the Mayo Clinic, and none of them were fatal. Nearly two-thirds of them occurred in the midst of otherwise minor procedures.

The Mayo rate of ‘never events" was roughly one in 22,000 surgical procedures. However, a recent study based upon information released by the National Practitioner Data Bank estimated that a ‘never event" would happen approximately once in every 12,000 procedures. There are ways to help prevent some of these mistakes, such as systems that count medical equipment to make sure nothing was left behind.

Those who have been injured as a result of a surgical mistake may benefit from consulting a medical malpractice lawyer. A review of the patient’s medical records as well as expert opinions may lead the lawyer to determine that the health care practitioner failed to observe the appropriate standard of care and thus should be held financially responsible for the damages that the patient has incurred.