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How can surgical errors be reduced?

Many Houston residents will undergo some type of surgery during their lifetimes. While most surgeries go as planned, sometimes surgical errors occur. These errors can be life-threatening or even fatal. One error that occurs from time to time is the failure to remove all surgical equipment, such as clamps and sponges, from the patient after surgery. So how can surgical errors involving medical equipment left in a patient be reduced?

Medical professionals have been working to reduce surgical errors for many years. There have been many high-profile news stories about surgical errors, including wrong-site surgeries and surgical equipment left inside a patient. Medical professionals consider these errors to be so blatant that they commonly refer to them as "never events," because they should never happen if procedures are followed correctly.

In one widely discussed study, researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine looked through a federal database and found nearly 10,000 malpractice claims related to never events between the years 1990 and 2010. In the study, published in the journal Surgery, the researchers found that the patient died in 6.6 percent of these events and was permanently injured in 32.9 percent. These numbers represented only those never events that resulted in a malpractice settlement or verdict; the researchers estimated that the number of these events occurring every year is more than 4,000.

If you or a loved one has been injured by medical errors, you may have the right to seek compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Meeting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you evaluate your options.

Source: Surgery, "Surgical never events in the United States," accessed Nov. 7, 2014

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