Why do Surgical Mistakes Happen?

surgeon.jpg“Never events” – as in surgical mistakes that should never happen – continue to occur in hospitals across the country, including Missouri and Illinois. Two new studies attempt to explain what causes catastrophic surgery errors.

Examples of Surgical Mistakes

The Mayo Clinic recently released the findings of its research into how human behavior can lead to surgical mistakes. Researchers found 69 “never events” in the surgical procedures it reviewed over a five year period. Those mistakes made by surgeons included:

• Performing the wrong surgery, accounting for 35 percent of surgical errors

• Performing surgery on the wrong part of the body, 32 percent of surgical errors

• Leaving surgical objects inside patients, 26 percent of surgical errors

• Putting in the wrong implant, 7 percent of surgical errors

Factors Leading to Surgical Errors

Researchers identified 628 human factors that contributed to these “never events.” They categorized the human factors into four broad groups:

• Unsafe actions, which included breaking rules

• Problems with operational processes and organization cultures

• Distractions, fatigue, inadequate communication

Hospital supervisory problems or staffing issues

In a separate look at surgical errors, recently published in JAMA Surgery, researchers reviewed more than 100 other studies conducted between 2004 and 2014 that examined three types of surgical errors:

• Wrong site surgery

• Leaving an object in the patient

• Surgical fires

Researchers concluded that poor communication between members of the medical teams led to many of these preventable surgical mistakes.

As the Mayo Clinic study indicates, there can be numerous factors that lead to surgical errors. Determining why a medical mistake occurred can be difficult, especially when those involved in the procedure aren’t forthcoming. So if you were severely injured during surgery or lost a family member due to a surgical error, you may want to consult an attorney experienced in conducting medical malpractice investigations to protect your legal rights.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.