Patients largely recognize that surgery is one of the most invasive medical procedures possible. There are numerous risks involved, from someone responding poorly to anesthesia to developing an infection afterward.
As if those issues weren’t concerning enough, patients also need to be aware of their risk for significant surgical errors. Also known as “never events,” there are several types of surgical mistakes that statistically occur multiple times per week somewhere in the United States. These never events often lead to catastrophic consequences for the patient affected. All three of the major mistakes below are more common than people realize and preventable with better practices at medical facilities.
Wrong-site and wrong-side mistakes
Whether someone is having a kidney transplant or corrective surgery performed on their hand and arm because of carpal tunnel syndrome, it is crucial that the surgeon perform the procedure on the right side of someone’s body. Operating on the wrong side or body part of the patient will usually mean there needs to be a second procedure, at the very least, to provide the treatment the patient initially needed. In some cases, such as procedures to remove damaged or cancerous tissue, the error could potentially limit someone’s future treatment options or put their life at risk.
Wrong patient errors
Surgeons often perform multiple procedures a day, and they may have to provide very different care for each patient. Record-keeping and scheduling mistakes, as well as burnout among the surgical staff members, might result in an error where the team performs the wrong surgery on a patient. As with wrong-site surgical mistakes, wrong patient or wrong procedure mistakes can have devastating consequences for the affected individual.
Retained foreign objects
Surgeons and the support staff helping them with the operation use numerous tools ranging from scalpels and clamps to gauze during the procedure. They typically need to account for every single tool and device brought into the operating room in their paperwork. Unfortunately, sometimes items get left behind in a patient’s body after surgery, often with devastating consequences. Patients will need to have a revision surgery if they can tolerate one. They will likely be at severe risk of infection and could also suffer traumatic injury to their tissue if the item left behind is rigid or sharp.
Such errors are completely preventable with proper record-keeping and identification practices at a medical facility. Those affected by a surgical never event or who have lost a loved one to a preventable mistake during an operation may have grounds to take legal action against the surgeon or the facility where they worked. Initiating a medical malpractice lawsuit is one way to create accountability for poor medical practices and to compensate those affected by the unprofessional behavior of others.