A study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that took into account medical malpractice data from claims filed between 1990 and 2010 indicates that U.S. surgeons during that time period have committed over 80,000 surgical errors while performing surgical procedures. Furthermore, most, if not all, of those errors were wholly preventable.
Researchers also suggested in the study that although 80,000 may seem to be a high number, it is actually on the conservative end of the spectrum. In reality, actual incidents of preventable surgical errors are likely much higher than what the available data seems to suggest.
According to the study, the surgical errors that were taken into account over the time period covered by the study resulted in over 9,700 medical malpractice suits filed that resulted in judgments paying out a total of over $1.3 billion. Of those malpractice suits, nearly seven percent of the patients died as a result of these preventable errors, while nearly 33 percent suffered permanent physical damage. The remaining nearly 60 percent of patients suffered some form of temporary damage as a direct result of their surgeries.
Extrapolating from the data, researchers involved in the study estimated that about 4,000 errors occur in surgery rooms across the U.S. annually. Although the data may be depressing, there is good news to be had. The data suggests that the types of surgical errors reported in the study can be easily prevented if medical practitioners institute procedures such as checklists, which can ensure that doctors not only perform the appropriate procedures on the right patients, and not on the wrong patient or wrong body part but also keep track of all instruments that are used during surgery.
Source: FindLaw, “Surgical Errors More Common Than Expected,” accessed Sept. 2, 2014