Study: Surgical errors more common than you would think

A study notes that “never” events – like wrong-site surgery – happen at an alarming rate and have serious consequences for people in Connecticut.

Someone undergoing surgery in Connecticut may understandably already have a number of concerns, such as wondering things like, how long will the recovery be? What are the possible side effects? Will this resolve my issue?

Unfortunately, there are other factors, such as surgical errors, that could come into play as well. In fact, these errors, termed "never" events because they should never happen, are fairly frequent. A study from researchers at The Johns Hopkins University estimates that across the country, these mistakes happen thousands of times every year.

The report

Researchers who compiled the report, which was published in a 2012 edition of the journal Surgery, used numbers that were pulled from the National Practitioner Data Bank. These broke down the following types of never-events:

  • Wrong-site surgery
  • Wrong-patient surgery
  • Leaving a foreign body inside a patient
  • Performing the wrong procedure

Each of these mistakes is highly preventable. Despite this, these errors occur at an alarming rate: The study estimates that from 1990 to 2010, there were 9,744 cases citing such errors in which medical negligence judgments were paid to victims. Further, 6.6 percent of these claims resulted in in death and a significant 32.9 percent caused permanent injury.

Based on these findings, the report summarizes that 4,044 surgical never events take place every year.

Preventing never events

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality cite communication errors as one of the most consistent factors associated with these mistakes. The organization suggests that prior to any type of operation, all medical professionals involved should review pertinent information to ensure everyone is on the same and correct page.

Additionally, the use of safety checklists could improve the safety of surgeries. A checklist might include reviewing the name of the patient and precisely where on the patient's body the surgery should take place. Taking inventory of all tools - scalpels and sponges, for example - should be done before and after the event. This could reduce the likelihood of any object getting left inside a patient's body.

Even when all these measures are implemented, never events could still happen. When they do, Connecticut law permits people to file a claim against negligent medical professionals and facilities. According to the law, plaintiffs have two years from either the date the injury was discovered or by which it should have been discovered. There is also a statute of repose, which notes that with few exceptions, no claim citing medical negligence may be brought three years after the date of the incident. People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in Connecticut.