South Carolina Surgical Errors
Everyone in South Carolina has at some point in his or her lives come into contact with the health care system. Though many times these experiences are positive, with doctors healing loved ones or treating medical conditions, the reality is that things can go wrong. We trust our physicians with our lives, and sadly, sometimes mistakes are made. Thousands of innocent patients are harmed each and every year by some form of medical malpractice. One leading cause, surgical errors, can be especially traumatic and lead to serious and long-lasting problems. To find out more about South Carolina surgical errors, keep reading.
The numbers regarding medical malpractice in hospitals are truly sobering. Statistics reveal that around 98,000 people die every year due to mistakes made in hospitals. That means tens of thousands of families must experience the devastation that comes with the loss of a loved one. What makes these deaths even more senseless is that so many never needed to occur. Small mistakes that could be easily fixed with more careful planning or better organization could save thousands of lives.
Beyond the more general medical errors that plague the health care industry, surgical mistakes represent an especially troubling category. A recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins found that some 4,000 surgical “never events” (events that should never happen during surgery) occur each and every year in the United States.
Even scarier are the estimates that 39 times a week a surgeon somewhere in the country leaves a foreign object behind inside a patient. That means things like scalpels, towels and sponges are routinely lost inside patients’ bodies, a mistake that can lead to pain, infection and subsequent corrective surgeries. The study also found that surgeons perform the wrong surgery or operate on the wrong body part 20 times per week, a figure that would horrify almost anyone.
What is especially troubling about these statistics is that while some problems are not preventable, these kinds of mistakes could be entirely eliminated with a bit of care and attention. If hospitals would put better systems in place, these “never events” might become much more rare, saving the health care system millions of dollars and sparing countless lives.
Examples of surgical errors
Now that we know how often surgical errors occur, what are some examples of the kinds of mistakes made by surgeons? As we already mentioned, leaving equipment inside of a patient is one of the most common errors seen in surgery today. The vast array of tools that are used during a typical surgery mean that the chances of something getting left behind are greatly increase. The way to avoid this problem is to have nurses and others engage in detailed accounting before and after the surgery to ensure nothing is lost.
Another common surgical error includes surgery performed on the wrong side of a patient’s body. Studies have shown this happens to roughly 20 patients each and every week. Sadly, these unnecessary surgeries waste time and money and force unsuspecting individuals to endure the pain and recovery associated with such a serious medical procedure unnecessarily. This too is easily fixed; simply marking the body beforehand can guarantee that surgery is performed in the right place.
Another frequent surgical mistake is doctors performing the wrong surgery altogether. You’d think this would be clear to everyone in the room, but there are far too many reports of surgeons making careless errors, including removing organs from those who were in for a knee replacement procedure. Simply double-checking with charts before starting the surgery is a simple way of avoiding such a costly error.
Other common surgical errors include nerve and internal organ damage, problems that typically result from the slip of scalpels or other surgical tools once inside a patient. Surgeons have to act with extreme care when poking around inside a patient and, unfortunately, sometimes careless mistakes are made.
Anesthesiology errors also occur with some regularity. Patients can be given either too much or too little drugs before surgery, often due to simple dosing miscalculations. Too much of such a powerful medication can lead to death or brain damage. Too little can result in a patient waking up in the midst of surgery, a traumatizing and potentially dangerous event.
Causes of surgical errors
We’ve already mentioned some of the most common causes of surgical errors, but a little repetition won’t hurt. Experts who study the issue of surgical mistakes continually highlight how crucial preoperative planning is to avoiding surgical errors. If medical staff would simply follow a checklist prior to the start of surgery, many problems could be avoided entirely. Checking the patient’s complete medical history, looking for medication allergies and reviewing exactly what procedure is supposed to occur for each patient is an excellent way to reduce the occurrence of “never events.”
Miscommunication is another common cause of surgical errors. Nurses and other medical staff that improperly mark the site for surgery do so after failing to communicate with others. Surgeons may be misinformed about the point of the surgery or about medication reactions. Anesthesiologists might misunderstand a patient’s chart, incorrectly guessing the patient’s height or weight, leading to dosing trouble. Simply ensuring everyone that will be in the operating room is on the same page would go a long way to protecting the health of patients.
Exhaustion is another major cause of surgical mistakes. Everyone knows how long and hard some doctors work, slaving away for hours on end without a break. Hospital shifts for doctors and nurses can be punishing and this lack of sleep takes a toll on everyone. The more tired a surgeon is, the more likely he or she will make a mistake during surgery, a simple but often ignored reality. If hospitals truly cared about reducing the instances of surgical errors they would institute strict guidelines about how long a surgeon could work on any given shift. A good night’s sleep isn’t only good for the doctor, but for any patient that doctor will encounter the next day.
Medical Malpractice Lawyer David Aylor has assisted injured individuals across South Carolina and helped secure damages for the harms they’ve suffered. David Aylor understands that medical malpractice can devastate a patient and his or her family, leaving everyone worried about how the injured individual will get back on his or her feet, both physically and financially. If you’ve been injured by a doctor, nurse, paramedic or medical technician and believe you have suffered from South Carolina medical malpractice, feel free to contact David Aylor today at 843.310.4900.