In the December 19 issue of the journal Surgery, an analysis of medical records showed that doctors leave towels, scalpels, retractors, hemostats, lap pads, cotton balls, sponges and other surgical equipment inside patients’ bodies on average about 39 times a week. Surgeons also operate on the wrong body part approximately 20 times a week and also operate on the wrong patient, about 20 times a week. After reviewing 9,744 medical malpractice lawsuits and other medical records, the research team found that over 80,000 major surgical errors happened between 1990 and 2010. Approximately 7 percent of those surgical patients died, and a third of them suffered a significant or permanent injury as a result of the surgery mistake.
Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Center and the author of the book "Unaccountable", indicates that the study's findings may underestimate the actual amount of surgical errors that take place each year. While he believes some surgical errors may be unable to be avoided, the types of mistakes found in this study should never happen. The surgical errors that were found were not because the doctor was negligent, but because the hospitals do not have systems in place to prevent these surgical accidents. Even though there are "time out" periods, marking of the part of the body that the surgery is going to be performed on and the use of surgical equipment with radio frequency ID (RFID) tracking clips, it is not enough to stop surgical mistakes from happening. One thought is to force all hospitals to report all surgical errors, not just the ones that wind up as a lawsuit, so that more safety measures could be put in place to avoid mistakes during a surgical procedure. It is extremely important to make sure the entire surgical team works together to prevent these errors or recognize and fix the errors before they cause permanent damages. This also includes making sure that the surgical nurse's feel comfortable enough and supported when standing up to a surgeon when a mistake was made or about to be made.
Here at the Philadelphia Beasley Law Firm, our teams of lawyers, doctors and nurses have reviewed thousands of medical records where there was a surgical item left behind in a patient, or the wrong part of the body was operated on. If you or a loved one was a victim of surgical negligence you may be eligible for compensation. Please feel free to contact a member of our surgical mistake negligence team at (215) 866-2424 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.