Recent Study on Surgical Errors Reports Over 4,000 “Never Events” Occur Each Year
May 6, 2013
A recent patient safety study by Johns Hopkins researchers estimates that 80,000 “never events” – medical errors that should “never” happen” – occurred during surgeries in the United States between 1990 and 2010. These errors, which put patients at extremely high risk for personal injury and even death, are said to occur at least 4,000 times each year. Researchers collected and analyzed data from medical malpractice cases throughout the country over the two decades of the study period, but they say their estimate is probably lower than the actual number of events.
The “never events” identified by Johns Hopkins included three types of surgical errors. First, leaving a foreign object such as a sponge or towel inside a patient, is said to occur approximately 39 times per week. The second surgical error identified was when a surgeon performs the wrong procedure on a patient which happens about 20 times a week. The third surgical error is when a surgeon operates on the wrong part of the body site which also is estimated to occur 20 times a week. Researchers hope that by identifying the magnitude of this problem, steps can be taken to address these errors.
Study Examined Thousands of Cases Involving Preventable Surgical Errors
The Johns Hopkins team used the National Practitioner Data Base to analyze medical malpractice claims throughout the country involving foreign objects, wrong patient, wrong operation, and wrong site procedures. Of the cases studied in the 20-year period, they found 9,744 paid medical malpractice settlements totaling $1.3 billion. in those cases, 6.6% of the patients involved died, 32.9% were permanently injured, and 59.2% were temporarily injured. The more serious the outcome, the higher the settlement.
The “never events” occurred most frequently in patients between the ages of 40 and 49. About a third of the surgeons involved were also in this age group, and 14.4% of them were over the age of 60. Interestingly, 62% of the surgeons had been cited in multiple malpractice reports, and 12.4% were involved in separate “never event” cases.
Surgical complications can occur for any number of reasons, but the study highlighted the frequency of preventable surgical errors. Dr. Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who led the study, said that the findings highlight the vast amount of work to be done to ensure that these medical errors are prevented. Dr. Makary reported that medical malpractice claims involving “never events” are usually easy to establish, because the damage can easily be proven. Hospitals are required to report these events if a patient experiences complications after a surgery, but these complications are not always discovered.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger Fight for Victims of Surgical Negligence
Many surgical centers have safety measures in place to prevent “never events” such as the ones cited in the study. These measures include mandatory “timeouts” before surgery to ensure that the correct patient and procedure are being prepped. Counting sponges and other materials before beginning the surgery and using indelible ink to mark the surgical site before administering anesthesia also help prevent errors from occurring. As the study shows, however, there is still a long way to go to ensure patient safety when undergoing surgery.
If you or a loved one have been injured due to a surgical error, the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP are here to help. Our knowledgeable personal injury attorneys represent victims of surgical negligence in throughout Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia – Allentown – Harrisburg region, as well as throughout New Jersey. To discuss your case, call us at 1-800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.