Hundreds of thousands of people in New York and around the country undergo surgery each year, but not all of those operations go as planned. When researchers from a medical insurance company scrutinized medical malpractice claims filed between 2014 and 2018, they discovered that about one in four of the cases involved a patient who had been injured during a surgical procedure. In more than three-quarters of these surgical error cases, patients suffered injuries because their surgeons made a mistake.
Some surgical errors are called never events in the health care industry because they should never happen. When they do, patients often suffer serious injuries or die. The medical insurance company study categorized 38% of the surgical error injuries as significant and permanent or fatal. Some of the most common kinds of surgical errors are:
- Operating on the wrong part of the body
- Operating on the wrong patient
- Performing an unnecessary procedure
- Leaving a sponge or surgical instrument inside the patient
- Providing the patient with too little or too much anesthesia
Surgeons are often to blame
Almost 40% of the medical malpractice claims filed by patients who were harmed during surgery alleged that surgeons lacked technical skill. A further 29% of the victims claimed that operating room staff made poor clinical decisions or did not communicate effectively. The researchers concluded that many of these mistakes could be avoided if surgeons and surgical nurses refrained from engaging in conversations and switched off their cell phones.
Surgical errors cause thousands of serious injuries in the United States every year, and some patients die on the operating table because their surgeons make mistakes. These errors would be less common if surgeons who lack technical skill were given additional training and operating rooms were free of distractions.