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Surgical Errors: Never Say Never

Sep 11, 2015 - Personal Injury, Tuscaloosa by

Back in 2012, John’s Hopkins reported that surgical “never events” occur at least 4,000 times per year. These are errors that should never happen because they are easily preventable when surgical staff members take common-sense precautions.

At the time, the report was major news within the medical community and our Tuscaloosa personal injury lawyers believed that knowledge of these issues would prevent them in the future. Unfortunately, current reports show that some of these easily-preventable issues still exist today.

Some Never Events Still Happen Today

Three years after the Hopkins report, JAMA Surgery states that three of these events are still prevalent:

Retained surgical items: Many items are used in surgery and anything from sponges to surgical tools are still being left inside of patients. Taking inventory before surgery begins and again before closing the incision can easily help prevent this type of error.

Wrong site surgery: This type of error can happen most often when a patient has more than one similar site, such as limbs or eyes and the surgeon operates on the healthy site by mistake. A common way to prevent such an accident is to carefully review the patient’s records prior to surgery and then mark the correct surgical site directly on the patient.

Surgical fires: Most surgeries require the use of the “fire triangle,” which is essentially a fuel source (ranging from alcohol-based skin preparation to the patient’s own skin or hair), an igniter (such as a laser) and an oxidizer (commonly oxygen). Maintaining a safe distance in the operating room between these three elements can prevent most surgical fires.

Communication is Key to Helping Prevent Never Events

In many cases, never events can be prevented when members of surgical teams engage in better methods of communication. Detailed and accurate record-keeping is essential, of course, and any surgical facility needs to develop and follow strict procedures to stay focused every step of the way.

While it is natural to place a great degree of trust in health care providers, patients need to take an active role in every aspect of their own medical care. With little effort, anyone can look up the ratings of Alabama hospitals provided by Consumer Report and other ratings are available online, as well.

However, an online check only helps to eliminate questionable facilities from the patient’s list of choices. Patients need to make their involvement known to medical providers by engaging in active communication, as well.

Patients should never be afraid to let providers know that they are aware of never events and ask about the precautions that their medical teams take to prevent them. Keep in mind that medical malpractice lawsuits can help patients recover expenses related to surgical errors, but preventing the errors in the first place is always better.

Additional Resources:
Johns Hopkins Malpractice Study: Surgical ‘Never Events’ Occur At Least 4,000 Times per Year
Other Blog topics:
Retained Surgical Items & Alabama Malpractice Claims, Tuscaloosa Medical Malpractice blog

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