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Surgical Errors More Common Than Expected
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine examined national medical malpractice claims and discovered that surgeons in the U.S. committed approximately 80,000 preventable errors between 1990 to 2010.

Patients rely on surgeons to provide expert care and to perform life-saving operations. No matter what the procedure, there is simply no room for error. According to a recent study, however, mistakes in the operating room are more common than patients might expect.

Study Results

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine examined national medical malpractice claims from 1990 to 2010. Their study, published in the journal Surgery, indicates that surgeons in the United States committed approximately 80,000 preventable errors during the period in question. Though that number may seem high, researchers note that their estimate is a conservative one and that the incidence of preventable errors – also known as “never events” – is likely much higher than records indicate.

To conduct the study, researchers used data from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a repository of federal medical malpractice claims. They specifically focused on judgments and out-of-court settlements related to cases involving:

  • Retained foreign bodies (i.e., cases where a sponge or other object was left inside a patient)
  • Wrong-site surgeries (i.e., a surgeon operated on an incorrect body part)
  • Wrong-patient surgeries (i.e., a surgeon operated on the wrong patient)
  • Incorrect procedures (i.e., a surgeon performed the wrong procedure on a patient)

Over the 20 years studied, they discovered 9,744 medical malpractice judgments and claims, with payments totaling $1.3 billion. About 6.6 percent of patients died, 32.9 percent of patients suffered permanent injury, and 59.2 percent of patients temporary injury as a result of the mistakes.

Using the data from the NPDB, researchers estimate that roughly 4,000 of these sorts of surgical mistakes occur in the United States each year.

Stopping Surgical Errors

Researchers suggest that these sorts of surgical errors can be prevented by employing procedures and simple tools – such as checklists – to make sure that doctors are not only performing the right procedures on the right patients, but are also keeping track of all instruments used during surgery. In addition, researchers suggest that improved reporting systems can play an important role in improving safety efforts.

A Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help

If you or someone you love has suffered injury due to the negligence of a physician, nurse, or other medical personnel, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. A knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can assess your case and help you get the compensation you deserve for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. For more information, contact a medical malpractice attorney today.

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