How Often Do Surgical Errors Occur?

Surgical errors occur at an alarming rate in the United States with some studies citing as many as 4,000 surgical errors each year. A surgical error is a preventable error that occurs during surgery. 

A surgical error is not an anticipated risk associated with surgery. A surgeon who commits a surgical error fails to follow the accepted standard of care for a procedure and in doing so causes preventable harm to a patient. 

If you are scheduled for surgery and would like to prevent a surgical error from happening, the following may help you make informed decisions about your upcoming procedure. If you believe you were the victim of a surgical error, immediately contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Louisville, Kentucky for a claim review.

What Is a “Never-Event?”

A “never-event” is a medical error that should never happen. It is avoidable and preventable. Never-events are costly to both patients and the healthcare industry.

Our specialized surgical error attorneys in Louisville explain the four primary surgical never-events. These include:

  • Wrong body part surgery;
  • Wrong patient surgery;
  • Wrong procedure surgery; and
  • Unintended retention of a foreign object.

Wrong patient, wrong body part, and wrong procedure surgeries happen about 20 times per week according to a study by Johns Hopkins. While a foreign object is left inside a patient’s body on average 39 times per week.

Nearly 33% of surgical never-event victims suffer permanent injury, and almost 7% of never events cause patient death. Permanent injuries include loss of organ function, disability, disfigurement, loss of a limb, and chronic pain.

Consequences of Surgical Errors

Surgical errors can have serious consequences for a patient and result in additional surgeries to address complications.

Surgical errors can lead to any of the following:

  • Infection;
  • Sepsis;
  • Permanent scarring;
  • Organ perforation;
  • Amputation;
  • Nerve damage;
  • Oxygen deprivation;
  • Brain or organ damage;
  • Hemorrhage; and
  • Paralysis.

Some of the above may be risks of surgery. The risks of surgery are not the same as surgical errors.

Risks of Surgery and Informed Consent

Risks of surgery are potential dangers of surgery. Patients should be informed by their doctor of all the possible risks, benefits, complications, alternatives, and consequences when choosing to undergo surgery. 

This process is called informed consent and includes getting a patient’s signature on a consent form. The consent form is the patient’s acknowledgment and acceptance of any known surgical risks.

Causes of Surgical Errors

There are several causes of surgical error. Some of the most common are poor communication between hospital staff, nurses, and surgeons, and the failure to follow surgical safety checklists.

Surgical teams who take the time to check and recheck information with one another, hospital staff, and patients are less likely to make preventable mistakes.  

Preventing Surgical Errors as a Patient

Part of being a proactive patient is participating in your care team’s pre-surgery checklist. Speak with the nurses and the surgeon to be certain that you agree on the surgery to be performed. 

If one body part is being operated on, make sure that is the limb that is marked before surgery. Clarify any drug allergies and address any concerns you have before entering the operating room.

Contact an Experienced Kentucky Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or your loved one suffered a surgical error and are unsure of where to turn for help, call Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Conway, PSC. Our medical malpractice attorneys will meet with you at no cost and advise you of your legal rights.

Louisville personal injury lawyers at Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Conway, PSC, have over 30 years of experience protecting the rights of victims throughout Kentucky. We have a track record of success and have recovered millions for our clients.

You can reach Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Conway, PSC, in our Louisville office at 502-369-0616. Kentucky has strict time limits to file a medical malpractice claim so start your case today!