The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported that “every year there are an estimated 500 surgeries on the wrong body part and 5,000 surgical items unintentionally left in patients’ bodies.”
From the study:
Wrong-site surgery, retained surgical items, and surgical fires continue to occur despite sizeable prevention efforts by patient safety agencies, national accreditation bodies, professional societies, and hospitals and their medical staff. Wrong-site surgery refers to surgery on the wrong site or the wrong side, the wrong procedure, the wrong implant, or the wrong patient. Retained surgical items are items unintentionally left in a patient after surgery; some events are clinically asymptomatic and discovered only long after the procedure. Surgical fires are fires in the operating room, including on and in the patient (eg, airway fires). Fire triangle elements are routinely present during surgery—ignition sources such as lasers, fuels such as drapes, and oxidizers such as supplemental oxygen—making the operating room an environment where fires develop more quickly, burn hotter, and are more difficult to extinguish. The events have potentially devastating consequences for the patient, and health care practitioners and facilities may also experience severe repercussions. All three are considered preventable (termed never events) and not acceptable risks of surgery.
Medical errors like these occur in alarming numbers and are very costly – in lives and price. In order to protect patients, the first step must be to reduce medical malpractice. For more on medical malpractice, check out the June 2015 briefing book by the Center for Justice & Democracy.