How common are surgical mistakes?

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Medical malpractice during surgery is frighteningly commonThere are many things you can do to prevent medical errors. You can make sure that your doctors know about your medical history and any medications you are taking. You can ask about medication side-effects. You can even require that every health care provider that comes in your room washes his or her hands. But when you undergo surgery, you are defenseless. You have no control over what is happening to your body and you are not able to watch for mistakes.

And Serious Surgical Mistakes Are More Common Than They Should Be

A 2013 study estimated that more than 4,000 surgical errors are made are made each year. Researchers from John Hopkins Medical School used the National Practitioner Data Bank, a database of medical-malpractice judgments and out-of-court settlements, to identify 9,744 malpractice payments related to surgical errors that occurred between 1990 and 2010. These mistakes included:

  • Foreign objects left in patients.
  • Surgery on the wrong part of the body.
  • Surgery where the wrong procedure was done.
  • Surgery on the wrong patient.

These types of procedures are known as “never events” because they are completely preventable. Hospitals should have safeguards to ensure that these types of surgical errors never happen.

Out of 9,744 surgical errors, the study authors found:

  • 4,853 cases of foreign objects left in patients.
  • 2,446 cases of wrong-site surgeries.
  • 2,446 cases where the wrong procedure was performed.
  • 29 cases of surgery on the wrong patient.

Six percent (585) of patients experiencing a surgical mistake died from the mistake. Almost one-third (3205) were left with permanent disability or injury; 59 percent (5768) suffered temporary injuries.

According to previous estimates, only 12 percent of surgical mistakes ever result in medical malpractice payments. The research team used this statistic to estimate a total of 4,082 actual surgical mistakes in the U.S. each year. But even this number may be too low. According to lead author Dr. Martin Makary, many surgical mistakes are never discovered.

What Should You Do If You Are a Victim of a Surgical Error in a Kentucky Hospital?

Your first step should be to get medical help and to make sure that your diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis are properly detailed in your medical records. Additionally, you should schedule a free consultation with an attorney who has experience with surgical malpractice claims. To make an appointment, contact Gray and White Law at 888-450-4456. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.