Surgical errors can often be prevented and must be addressed

Patients who go into the hospital or an outpatient facility for surgery entrust their care to people whom they believe are competent. They don't expect that they will be harmed during the surgery. Unfortunately, people can suffer serious injuries and might even die due to errors in the surgical suite.

Many things can go wrong in the operating room. It is imperative that each member of the team has control over the duties for which they are responsible. When one person doesn't do things correctly, the patient can suffer. Surgical errors can lead to patients needing additional medical care down the road and impact the patient's quality of life.

Types of errors

There are many different types of surgical errors that might occur. The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare estimates that 40 cases of wrong patient, wrong procedure or wrong side procedures occur in this country each week. Other problems that can occur include objects being left inside the patient, errors with anesthesia and nerve damage likely due to positioning issues. Every step of a surgical procedure is a chance for something to happen.

The dangers to patients don't end when they leave the operating room. Improper monitoring after procedures is another big issue. There is a chance for infection or other adverse events in the immediate post-surgical period.

Minimizing the risk

Patients can't do much to minimize these risks because they are usually anesthesized. In the period before the surgery, they can ensure that they verify all critical information, such as the procedure and surgical site. Discussing any prior adverse reactions to medications or anesthesia is vital.

The medical staff needs to take steps to ensure patient safety is a priority. Double-checking the patient's name and information about the surgery is necessary. During the surgery, every instrument and object used must be accounted for so that they aren't left inside the patients. Surgeons mustn't rush through the procedure. The patient must be carefully monitored.

When an error occurs

National guidelines for surgical errors state that the doctor and hospital should alert patients when something goes wrong. The disclosure should be made within 24 hours of the event. The surgeon should apologize for the error, and explain what happened. Still, only around 55 percent of surgeons surveyed said that they apologized for errors or informed the patient that the error was preventable

Doctors should also show concern for the patient's welfare and share how they are going to address any subsequent medical issues This is often the top concern of patients who suffered harm.

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