The Most Common Surgical Errors | Clifford Law Offices
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    The Most Common Surgical Errors

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    Surgical errors, termed “never events,” highlight critical vulnerabilities within the healthcare system. These errors, preventable with the right protocols and safety measures, should never happen, yet they continue to occur and pose severe risks. When such mistakes are made, they not only cause harm to patients – ranging from temporary injury to severe disability or even death – but also signal deep-rooted organizational and procedural flaws in medical institutions.

    Some of the most common surgical errors include:

    • Wrong-Site Surgery: This error occurs when surgery is performed on the wrong part of the body. It can result from miscommunication, incorrect surgical planning, or failure to check the surgical site properly against the operative plans and patient consent forms.
    • Wrong Patient Surgery: Surgery performed on the wrong patient can happen due to mix-ups in patient records, identification errors, or communication failures among medical staff. This is a severe breach of patient safety standards.
    • Wrong Procedure Surgery: In these cases, the correct patient undergoes the wrong procedure due to similar factors that cause wrong-site and wrong-patient surgeries. This might include misinterpretation of medical orders or a breakdown in communication.
    • Foreign Objects Left Behind: Surgical items such as sponges, towels, or instruments can accidentally be left inside a patient’s body cavity after closure of the surgical site. This can lead to infection, pain, and other severe complications and often requires additional surgery to remedy.
    • Surgical Infection/Failure to Follow Hygiene Protocols: Postoperative infections can occur if sterile environments are compromised during surgery or if the surgical team fails to adhere to established hygiene protocols. This includes everything from improper handwashing to inadequate sterilization of instruments.
    • Unnecessary Surgery: Performing surgeries that are not medically necessary can result from diagnostic errors, failure to try less invasive treatments first, or miscommunication regarding the patient’s medical history and needs.
    • Improper Monitoring: During surgery, failing to properly monitor the patient’s vital signs or other critical parameters can lead to unnoticed complications such as hypoxia, cardiac problems, or other life-threatening conditions.
    • Poor Communication: Miscommunication among surgical team members can lead to multiple types of surgical errors. This includes misinterpretation of verbal orders, inadequate handoff communication, or unclear documentation.
    • Inadequate Postoperative Care: Neglect in postoperative care can result in complications like infections, non-healing surgical sites, and unnecessary pain or discomfort for the patient. Proper follow-up is essential to ensure recovery and to address any issues promptly.
    • Incorrect Dosage of Anesthesia: Incorrect anesthesia dosage can lead to significant patient risks, including awareness during surgery, insufficient pain management, or overdose-related complications such as prolonged sedation or respiratory distress.
    • Causing Nerve Damage or Hemorrhage: Surgical precision is critical to avoid damaging nerves or causing uncontrolled bleeding. Errors can occur due to inexperience, haste, or failure to properly visualize the surgical field.

    Preventing these errors involves rigorous adherence to safety protocols, including surgical checklists, proper staff training, clear communication, and using technology like marking the surgical site and double-checking patient identifiers and surgical plans. Hospitals and surgical centers must continuously strive to improve quality control and staff competency to minimize these preventable tragedies.

    If you or a loved one have been affected by a surgical error, contact a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer today.

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