Surgical errors a continual concern for U.S. hospitals

Surgical errors are among the worst errors that patients in Virginia can ever suffer from. Patients may have the wrong body part or the wrong side operated on, or they may even undergo an operation intended for a different patient. For this reason, they are grouped under the name “wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors.”

WSPEs occur in 1 out of every 112,000 surgical procedures, according to a landmark study from 2006. Actually, the rate may be higher since that study covered only surgeries performed in an OR but not in the context of, for instance, ambulatory care. In any case, WSPEs reflect serious problems in safety and are referred to as “never events.” The question is how to prevent them.

The Joint Commission, a non-profit that accredits various health care organizations and programs in the U.S., created what is called the Universal Protocol to prevent WSPEs. Those hospitals and medical centers accredited by the Joint Commission follow this protocol, which requires, among other things, site-marking and timeouts before surgery.

Yet adhering to the Universal Protocol does not prevent all WSPEs. Studies have shown how communication errors are often behind them, and not even timeouts can help in this if they are rushed. In addition, distractions and a lack of teamwork can lead to errors during the procedure itself.

Surgical errors form the basis for many malpractice claims every year, and these claims often end in multimillion-dollar settlements. Those who believe they have good grounds for filing a similar claim may want to hire a lawyer for this major step. The lawyer may, in turn, hire investigators and medical experts who can apply themselves to every detail of the case. The stronger the case, the easier it may be to negotiate for a settlement and avoid litigation.