Dead Serious Facts, Kentucky: Statistics on Death From Surgical Errors

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Most of us in Kentucky have probably seen a cartoon or comic strip in which a surgeon frantically searches for his wristwatch, only to discover on an X-ray that he left it in the patient. We laughed, of course, or perhaps just shook our heads and smiled.

Surgical errors in real life do not leave people laughing.

Evaluating Patient Safety

To put the situation into perspective, HealthGrades asserts that more people die every six months from patient safety incidents—medical errors—than died in the Vietnam War. This is the equivalent of three fully loaded jumbo jets crashing every other day. If it were recognized as a legitimate cause of death by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it would be the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

 “Patient Safety in American Hospitals,” a research study published in 2004 by HealthGrades, revealed sobering statistics about the survival rate for patients who experienced errors or complications from surgery.

In 2002, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) collaborated with the University of California–Stanford Evidence-Based Practice Center. They came up with 20 indicators easily located in patient discharge records that they believe may lead to potentially preventable patient safety incidents. HealthGrades used Patient Safety Indicator (PSI) software that AHRQ had developed to locate PSIs in Medicare data from 2000 through 2002.

Serious Research Results

Following are the findings from HealthGrade’s study of deaths resulting from patient safety incidents:

  • 13.13 percent of cases of decubitus ulcer (bedsores)
  • 12.21 percent of post-operative pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis
  • 30.97 percent of post-operative respiratory failures
  • 7.65 percent of cases of accidental puncture or laceration
  • 29.01 percent of cases of post-operative sepsis
  • 6.25 percent of cases where a foreign body was left in the patient during a procedure
  • 1.44 percent of complications of anesthesia
  • 10.45 percent of cases of post-operative hemorrhage or hematoma
  • 14.99 percent of cases of post-operative wound dehiscence (in which the edges of the wound separate)
  • 13.16 percent of selected infections resulting from medical care
  • 8.95 percent of transfusion reactions

The study found a total of 187,289 deaths resulting from a patient safety incident during the three years for which data were analyzed.

Victims of medical malpractice have a right to justice. If someone you love has been injured or has died resulting from a surgical procedure, contact the medical malpractice attorneys in Kentucky at Gray and White Law. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.