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3 types of surgical errors that should never happen in hospitals

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Patients who need to undergo surgery are often very anxious about the process. They may worry about side effects or how they will react to anesthesia. Most people would prefer non-surgical treatment whenever it is an option. However, for a variety of different maladies, operations are the best treatment available. Surgery can replace failing joints, remove tumors and correct congenital defects. Most surgical procedures come with an inherent degree of risk but are relatively safe when medical professionals follow best practices.

Unfortunately, there are so-called never events that occur in operating rooms around the United States every year. Never events are medical situations that should never occur because of how significant the mistakes involved are. The three never events below are among the most commonly reported and devastating surgical errors possible.

Wrong-site procedures

The human body is largely the same on both sides, which could lead to some confusion in the operating room. Doctors might remove the wrong kidney or replace the wrong knee. When they perform a procedure on the wrong part of the body, a patient will likely have to undergo a second procedure to obtain the treatment they need. They may have a substantially longer recovery or may sometimes become unable to undergo the procedure they require because of the wrong-site mistake. Pre-surgical preparation often involves having a patient mark their body with a permanent marker to limit the chance of the surgeon performing the procedure on the wrong body part or side of the body.

Wrong patient or wrong procedure errors

Some surgeries require hours of work, while others are relatively brief. Surgeons may perform multiple surgeries every day that they work, which increases the chance of them making a mistake about the procedure they perform. Surgeons may perform the completely wrong procedure on a patient or may mix up two patients, performing a procedure intended for one individual on the person scheduled immediately before or after them. Performing the wrong procedure can lead to a host of medical complications, many of which could be debilitating for the patient.

Retained foreign bodies

The most common never event involves surgeons leaving foreign objects inside a patient. Items ranging from scalpels and clamps to gauze could end up enclosed inside a patient’s body. Retained foreign bodies can cause infections and physical trauma. This mistake often requires a revision procedure that will significantly increase how long it takes someone to fully recover.

Patients who experience a never event are at increased risk of dying or having a difficult recovery. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can help people cover the costs generated after something goes wrong during surgery due to a provider’s negligence.