Surgical Errors Still Occurring “Far Too Often” Says Study

The New York Times reports in Vital Signs that "despite a requirement that hospitals abide by a standard set of procedures to prevent surgical mistakes like operating on the wrong patient or the wrong body part, such errors continue to occur far too often," according to a paper in the Archives of Surgery. "Past estimates suggested that such mistakes occurred once in every 110,000 procedures, but the paper’s lead author, Dr. Philip F. Stahel, said the incidence might not be so rare — and might even have increased." He even went so far as to call the "data…shocking." 

The author of the editorial accompanying the study told CNN / (10/18, Gardner) that "catastrophic surgical errors are ‘a lot more common than the public thinks.’" Martin Makary, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, added, "Each hospital, whether they publicly admit it or not, and whether or not it’s discoverable in a lawsuit, has an episode of wrong-site or wrong-patient surgery either every year or once every few years." The current study authors decided to look at hospitals in Colorado.

They reviewed cases that were "included in a database of errors doctors reported to the Colorado Physician Insurance Co., or COPIC, between Jan. 1, 2002, and June 1, 2008," the AP (10/19) reports. "Of the 27,370 incidents in the database, the study found 25 surgeries were performed on the wrong patient and 107 operations on the wrong body part." What’s more, approximately "one-fourth of those operations inflicted ‘significant harm’ on a patient…and one person died" after suffering "acute respiratory failure" when a "chest tube was placed on the incorrect side." 
For more see the New York Times article

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