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Study looks into major surgical errors

Every year, patients in hospitals in North Carolina and around the country run the risk of being injured by medical mistakes such as wrong-site or wrong-patient surgery. Although major surgical errors like these are rare, researchers from the Evidence-based Practice Center at the RAND Corporation say that more should be done to track and analyze these types of events so that they can be prevented.

On June 10, the researchers findings on major surgical errors, which are often referred to as 'never events," were released in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Surgery. By analyzing 138 studies that were published between 2004 and 2014, the researchers found that wrong-site errors take place in around 1 out of every 100,000 surgeries. Researchers also determined that doctors leave medical sponges and other objects in patients' bodies in about 1 in every 10,000 surgical procedures.

According to the researchers, many of the never events that occur during surgery are caused by poor communication. Information about a surgery may be miscommunicated among staff members, operating room staff may not have adequate information about a surgery or medical staff may fail to voice concern about a potential problem during surgery. The study's lead researcher says that never events and near misses should be tracked more diligently so that doctors will be able to better understand how to prevent surgical errors.

A patient who has been injured by a surgical error of the type described in the study may wish to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to explore the available alternatives for receiving compensation. If it is determined that the error was caused by a practitioner's failure to observe the proper standard of care, it may be advisable to file a civil lawsuit against the responsible party seeking damages for the losses that have been sustained.

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