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Will a Surgical Never Event Really Never Happen?

Posted on Sunday, July 30th, 2017 at 4:16 pm    

If you need surgery in San Antonio what is the chance of a surgical never event happening? If you don’t know what a surgical never event is, it is certainly not an event that never occurs, but this is what an avoidable surgical error is colloquially referred to. The name really implies that a mistake or error that takes place during surgery should “never” have occurred. Unfortunately, surgical never events do occur all the time, even though thankfully they are infrequent.

The estimated number of these mistakes, to give them a more meaningful name, is between 75 and 80 every week somewhere across the country. Many of these mistakes lead to expensive medical malpractice suits as the unfortunate victims may experience anything from temporary ill health right through to death because of the mistake made.

Types of surgical never events

There are many different types of surgical error. The majority of them are in one or more of the following categories:

  1. Surgical implements or items used during surgery left behind in the patient’s body. These include common surgical instruments like scissors, scalpels and forceps together with items used in a surgical procedure such as swabs and surgical sponges.
  2. The wrong surgical procedure is carried out. This may be due to a misdiagnosis or a surgical procedure carried out on the wrong patient or on the wrong body part.
  3. A surgical procedure is not carried out professionally. No-one can absolutely guarantee a particular surgical procedure. If surgery does not result in success or the patient dies it does not necessarily mean that a mistake has been made. What would be regarded as a “never event” is when surgery that would be normally considered straightforward or expected to be satisfactory is completed incompetently or without regard to normal professional conduct.

Why surgical mistakes are made

There is a misconception that surgical errors are made by inexperienced or insufficiently trained surgeons. This is not borne out by the statistics of such errors. In fact, more surgical errors are made by surgeons in their middle years of practice than any others. A third of surgical errors are carried out in the U.S. by surgeons between 40 and 49. This compares to less than 6% of older surgeons (over 60).

If it is not due to lack of experience then what are the principal reasons for errors?

There are a number of complex reasons and, in any one incident, there may be one or more of the following being the underlying cause of the error.

  • communication barrier or communication break down between different medical personnel;
  • fatigue;
  • distraction;
  • stress;
  • insufficient personnel at hand (lack of sufficient staff);
  • surgeon interpreting the rules incorrectly or bending or breaking the rules.

The effects of surgical never events on patients can be fatal

Surgical never events didn’t get their name for nothing. Sharp implements that are left inside a patient’s body through carelessness can cause internal bleeding and lead to more problems than the patient had originally. Death can result if further surgery to remove the implement cannot be handled by the patient.

Surgical errors are not always identified until the patient starts to complain of pains that they did not have beforehand. These pains may be in addition to those they had beforehand. This would be typically the case if the incorrect procedure had been carried out either on the wrong patient or on the wrong body part.

Surgical errors mean that surgery must be done again. In some cases, it may be simply be to remove a missing item such as a sponge or scissors. In others it will be to correct an incorrect procedure and then perform the correct one. Surgery is invasive and physically and emotionally stressful. There is no guarantee that if a patient must be operated on again that they are going to recover.

Legal options after a surgical never event

Most surgical errors are likely to lead at some point to a medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon or other medical personnel who was responsible for the error. It has been estimated that surgical errors cost the medical profession 1.4 billion dollars annually in medical malpractice lawsuits.

If you, or a member of your family, have been unfortunate to suffer from a surgical never event in any San Antonio medical institution, you are entitled to consider claiming compensation. Contact our experienced medical malpractice attorney at the Patino Law Office in San Antonio. An initial consultation is free and we do not charge a legal fee unless we win the case on your behalf. Call 877-333-3333 today.