January 23, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- It can be a surgical patient's worst nightmare -- upon awakening in an anesthetized haze, he or she slowly realizes the wrong operation was performed or the operation was performed on the wrong side of the body. Under such circumstances, depending on the overall health of the patient and other factors, the surgical error can lead to additional, otherwise unnecessary surgeries. In the most severe cases, patients have died as a result of such preventable surgical errors.
While most of us assume that such incidents are incredibly rare and therefore not a cause for concern, a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has revealed these surgical "never events" are more common than we might imagine. According to the study, over 4,000 preventable surgical errors
occur annually in the United States.
"Never events" refer to surgical errors that are entirely preventable and should never take place. Some examples include:
- Operating on the wrong side of the body
- Operating on the wrong patient
- Leaving a sponge inside the patient after the surgery
The study examined 9,744 cases in which "never events" led to medical malpractice
payments for the injured patient from 1990 to 2010. Of those, almost 50 percent involved an object, such as a sponge, being left inside the patient after the surgery. In addition, approximately 25 percent each involved the wrong operation being performed on the patient and the procedure being performed on the wrong side of the body.
These serious errors can result in lifelong consequences for the injured patient, and in the worst cases, can even be fatal. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality conducted a study of over 161,000 surgical patients from 2001 to 2002. The researchers found that one-tenth of the fatalities that occurred during the first 90 days following the surgery were the result of preventable surgical errors.
Surgeons should take steps to prevent errors in the operating room
In response to these concerning statistics, hospitals in New Jersey and across the country have implemented different strategies to decrease the number of preventable errors.
The use of surgical checklists has been successfully put into practice in many hospitals. The checklists typically require, among other things, that the patient, procedure and area of the body be identified before the operation begins. In addition, checklists also require medical personnel to count the number of sponges in the room on an ongoing basis -- before, during and after the surgery -- to ensure foreign objects are not left inside the body.
Another technique to identify sponges left behind is the use of bar codes and scanners. Some hospitals now use sponges that have a bar code inserted in the sponge. Before the surgeons close the patient, they can use a scanner that registers the bar codes to ensure sponges are not left behind.
Despite these efforts, some argue that steeper penalties are necessary to ensure "never events" never occur. Currently, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services
refuses to pay for certain expenses -- such as additional surgeries -- to correct preventable surgical errors. A Harvard University patient-safety expert has suggested that imposing large fines on hospitals when never events occur would significantly reduce the number of these incidents.
As the consequences from preventable surgical errors can be felt for a lifetime, those who have been affected by a "never event" should protect the stability of their financial future. Consulting with an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney will ensure just compensation is received.
Article provided by Nagel Rice, LLP
Visit us at www.nagelrice.com---
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