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Surgical Procedure Errors

Patient safety and the prevention of surgical procedure errors have become the focus of most healthcare providers. There is currently tremendous pressure to meet standards and expectations promulgated by regulatory agencies, governmental agencies, professional advisory groups watchdogs, and the public.  However, surgical/procedure errors still happen. They can cause serious complications and even death, and are often the result of failure to follow proper hospital policies or the result of failure to implement checks and balances to prevent errors.

According to an updated study released in April 2006 by Health Grades, entitled, “Patient Safety in American Hospitals” released in April 2006, Texas ranks 38th among the 50 states for overall patient safety performance.  The incidence of postoperative hemorrhage in Texas was 2.062 per 1000 patients. The incidence of foreign body left in during a surgical procedure was .052 per 1000 patients.

According to the same study:

  • $463.13 million in excess cost for accidental puncture or laceration was attributable to patient safety incidents in the US 2000-2002.
  • $17.25 million in excess cost for foreign bodies left in during a procedure was attributable to patient safety incidents in the US 2000-2002.
  • $3.367 million in excess cost for transfusion reactions was attributable to patient safety incidents in the US 2000-2002.

Surgical/procedure errors can include wrong-site surgery/procedure, wrong surgery or procedure, wrong surgical instrument or sponge count resulting in a sponge or instrument left in the body following closure, surgery or procedure unrelated to the patient’s diagnosis, wrong patient surgery or procedure, end-user related surgical equipment malfunction, damage to an organ which resulted from a planned surgery.

Any of these complications can lead to prolonged hospitalization, medical complications, the need for additional surgery, permanent disability or death. It is recommended that a detailed medical record review be performed to evaluate the circumstances related to a surgical/procedure error and the impact of that surgical procedure error on a patient’s clinical course and outcome.

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