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How Often Do Surgical Errors Occur?

Posted on August 15, 2022

A recent news report described how a California surgeon removed his patient’s spleen instead of her diseased kidney, a surgical error that will result in a lifetime of complications for the 55-year-old woman, as the spleen fights invasive germs and is especially important to the body’s immune system.

This incident brings to mind the question of how often do surgical errors happen, and why? An article in the National Library of Medicine provides an in-depth study of medical error reduction and prevention.

About 400,000 patients annually experience some type of preventable harm when hospitalized, according to the article. Medical errors in hospitals and clinics result in 100,000 deaths each year. When they don’t result in death, medical mistakes can still have devastating consequences.

Not all adverse effects are considered medical errors. Negligence, or failure to meet the expected standard of care, is a key part. Errors generally fall within two major categories:

The spleen removal would be an example of error #2; not securing a patient into a gurney before transport could be an example of error #1.

Common causes of errors include inadequate staffing, provider fatigue, poor supervision, technical failures of equipment, inadequate methods of identifying patients, and rushed assessments. There also may be communication issues, lack of leadership, misapplying expertise, or deficiencies in education and training. Incomplete or missing pertinent information, multiple surgeons performing more than one procedure, time pressures, and wrong labeling of a specimen also can contribute to errors.

No matter how minor, a medical error can have lifelong impact. Talking to a top medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia may help provide direction as to the best course of action. Tom Duffy has secured 8-figure verdicts and settlements for his clients from most of the large teaching hospitals and universities in the city. If you would like to discuss your legal options, please contact us.