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How to prevent and deal with surgical errors

According to WebMD, at least 4,000 surgical mistakes happen every year, and that doesn’t include mistakes that may go unreported because they weren’t discovered immediately. This number seems alarming and it may be especially jarring for those who recently underwent surgery or are preparing for an upcoming surgical procedure.

Though we place a lot of trust in doctors and practitioners, the reality is that they are still human beings and mistakes during surgery are sadly more common than anyone would like. Some examples of common surgical errors are:

· Foreign objects left in the body, such as a surgical sponge

· Operating on the wrong body part or the wrong patient

· Anesthesia or medication errors

· Poor hygiene leading to infections

· Untreated complications from surgery, such as blood clots

· Misdiagnosis (surgery was not necessary in the first place)

While there are systems in place to try to prevent these things from happening, such as checklists to keep track of the number of sponges and instruments used, errors still occur. There have been efforts to technologically improve these methods, by using sponges that can be detected by a scanner, for example, but this doesn’t have widespread use yet.

What you can do to prevent errors

While the responsibility to correctly perform a surgery lies in the hands of the surgeons themselves, you can take measures to protect yourself as well. When a surgery is first recommended, make sure you get as much detail about your condition as possible. Ask your doctor about every course of action available so that you understand the risks of each choice and whether surgery is truly the best solution to your condition.

If surgery is the best option and/or you decide surgery is the course of action you want to take, ask your doctor about the risks of an operation, the safety measures that will be used to protect you from surgical error, and any other questions you have. Do not feel embarrassed or rude about questioning the doctor. You have every right to understand what will be done during the operation, and it’s important to make sure they have procedures for preventing incidents like the errors listed above.

What you should do if an error occurs

If you undergo surgery and believe an error or complication occurred, talk to your doctor right away. Doctors will almost always be able to bring you back in to fix the error or find another solution for you. This may even be free of charge, depending on the situation. Surgical error can lead to serious injury or health issues, so do not hesitate if you believe an error occurred.

A medical malpractice claim may be an option for you as well. To do this, you usually need to have a medical assessment completed by another physician to examine your condition and figure out whether the error was due to the negligence of your other doctor/surgeon. If you plan to file a claim, a medical malpractice attorney can be extremely beneficial. It is not easy to prove fault for medical malpractice and the process can get complex. However, a malpractice claim can cover medical expenses and compensate you for the damages and injuries you sustained.