Your car has seatbelts to improve the chances that you will survive an accident. However, if you are in a hurry and don’t take the time to buckle up, those restraints do no good. In the same way, your hospital likely has protocol for minimizing the risk of mistakes during surgery. If your surgical team doesn’t take the time to follow the protocol, what good is it?
Waking up from surgery to discover the doctors have made a grievous error can be a living nightmare. The most common error occurs when a surgeon leaves a surgical object inside you after completing the surgery. Reportedly, this type of event happens to only one in every 18,000 inpatient operations. However, if you are the one, these statistics may bring little comfort.
Although medical professionals refer to them as “never events,” preventable surgical mistakes continue to keep medical errors among the leading causes of death in the United States. In addition to leaving foreign objects inside a patient, never events — or those incidents that should never happen — include the following:
- Causing nerve damage by inappropriately positioning you
- Improperly administering or monitoring your anesthesia
- Doing the wrong surgery on you
- Operating on the wrong side of your body
Operations on the wrong side or wrong patient occur almost once a week, according to some studies, making it the second most common surgical error after foreign objects left in the body. While such mistakes may seem careless and unacceptable to you, evaluations of those events conclude that they result from poor leadership and incomplete assessments. Factors that contributed to your surgical injury may include:
- Poor communication between the surgical team and the staff scheduling the procedure
- Unproductive pre-op conference
- Inattention to surgical time out
- Time limitations causing doctors to rush procedures
- System-wide lack of importance placed on safety protocol
Since the medical community refers to such mistakes as “never events,” it is easy to see that even the doctors agree such errors are unacceptable. Many hospitals have implemented a surgical checklist that leads the medical team through each phase of the operation. Members of the team are urged to check one another to ensure patients receive the highest standard of care. If your Texas hospital did not have or failed to follow such procedures, you likely suffered the consequences. While a doctor can sometimes correct a surgical mistake with an extra dose of antibiotics, other errors can leave you with permanent injury, disfigurement or disability.