The medical industry holds some of the most trusted professionals in the nation. People place their lives in the hands of physicians, nurses and surgeons on a daily basis when taken into the operating room to have procedures performed.
What people may not realize is that medical professionals are human and make mistakes that may put patient lives in danger. Surgical errors, negligence and other factors come into play when evaluating this type of medical malpractice. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 4,000 medical errors, including surgical mistakes, occur every year in the United States. Many of these errors are preventable and put lives at risk.
Factors that lead to surgical errors
Miscommunication is one of the many factors involved in surgical mistakes. Surgeons may operate on the wrong body part, perform the wrong procedure or operate on the wrong patient altogether. Miscommunication may occur with the following:
- Between medical professionals, such as physicians, nurses, surgeons and medical assistants
- Errors involving electronic health care records
- Between patients and the operating professionals
Another catalyst for surgical errors involves surgeons leaving instruments in patients’ surgical sites. While physical counts help to locate all surgical instruments before, during and after the procedure, simple mistakes may lead to items left inside a patient. These instruments are often surgical sponges, which when saturated with blood and bodily fluids, can disappear next to body organs. Retained surgical items can lead to serious infections that endanger the lives of patients.
How do we prevent surgical errors?
It is critical that surgeons speak with patients beforehand to verify the patient’s personal information as well as details about the procedure. Medical professionals must document all interactions involving patients and surgical procedures. New technology that helps surgeons account for all equipment and minimize the risk of something getting left behind is being introduced in more healthcare facilities across the country.