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Shocking Surgical Error Statistics

surgical error

Every year more than 4,000 people who undergo surgery are injured from a surgical error; preventable mistakes called “never events.” A study released on WebMD, looked at malpractice claim information for surgical “never events” from the National Practitioner Data Bank between 1990 and 2010. Researchers use the term “never events” because they represent shocking surgical errors that should never have happened like when a surgeon performs the wrong procedure. Over the course of the study, 9,744 paid malpractice judgments and claims were paid out to the tune of $1.3 billion.

If you or a loved one was seriously injured as a result of a surgical error, contact a medical malpractice lawyer today. You may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of consortium and more.

Surgical error statistics

Surgical errors cause a wide range of issues; 59 percent of victims suffered temporary injury, 33 percent had permanent injuries and 6.6 percent of cases lead to wrongful death. Determining the exact number of surgical errors can be difficult despite the fact that hospitals are required by law to report “never events” that result in a settlement or judgment. This means that hospitals are not required to report medical errors that do not result in a lawsuit. In addition, not all patients realize that an error has been committed. If a patient doesn’t experience complications from an object being left inside their body, for example, then no one will ever know that it occurred.

The study found that each week surgeons:

  • Leave a foreign object like a sponge inside a patient’s body after surgery (39 times)
  • Perform the wrong procedure (20 times)
  • Operate on the wrong part of the body (20 times)

Based on this data, researchers estimate that 4,044 surgical “never events” happen every year in the U.S. Researchers note that if all surgical mistakes were included the numbers would likely be higher.

In an unsettling discovery, almost two-thirds of surgeons involved in a surgical mistake had been cited in more than one separate malpractice report previously, and 12.4 percent had been identified in more than one surgical “never event.”

What are hospitals doing to reduce surgical errors?

Most hospitals and medical centers have safety procedures in place to reduce or prevent surgical errors. These procedures include:

  • Operating room “time-outs” to make sure medical records and surgical plans match the patient on the table
  • Counting sponges and other surgical tools before and after performing surgery
  • Using new technology like surgical sponges with radiofrequency tags that can be detected by a scanner
  • Marking surgical checklists
  • Using indelible ink to mark the site of the surgery

Despite procedures like these, surgical mistakes still happen. Miscommunications among the surgical team, absent-mindedness, carelessness, negligence and fatigue can all contribute to surgical errors.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-3330 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.