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"Never events" in surgery affect thousands of patients each year

When physicians advise Maryland patients that surgery is necessary to treat a condition or illness, most people assume that the person's health is at risk and that surgery may be the only treatment. Unfortunately, surgical procedures are not always the best way to help a patient and may sometimes do more harm than good.

One recent study, in fact, claims that approximately 4,000 surgical errors occur every year in the United States. These errors are also known as "never events" because they are errors that should never take place in any setting. The study published in the journal Surgery looked at more 80,000 never events that occurred nationwide between 1990 and 2010. Errors involving foreign objects left inside patients are documented to have occurred at least 39 times. Surgeons allegedly operating on the wrong body part or limb of a patient or performing the wrong surgery occurs around 20 times a week.

The study analyzed data provided by the National Practitioner Data Bank. That organization takes data from medical malpractice claims to compute the total number of surgical errors associated with three types of medical error -- wrong procedures, wrong patients and wrong-site surgery. Over the past two decades, the researchers have discovered that almost 9,750 paid medical malpractice claims were related to surgical errors. Of these, 59.2 percent of patients were temporarily injured, 32.9 percent were permanently injured and 6.6 percent died as a result. The data bank stresses that nearly 4, 044 never events happen every year.

The study concluded that health-care facilities nationwide need more safety procedures to avoid these so-called never events. Safety practices to prevent surgical errors such as wrong-site surgery are needed to help doctors provide proper and adequate medical services. Doing so can help guarantee the safety of patients during surgery and prevent medical malpractice claims.

Source: MedicalNewsToday.com, "Surgical Errors Occur More than 4,000 Times A Year in the U.S.," Josh Nordqvist, Accessed Oct. 30, 2014

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