Can You Tell How Safe Your Surgeon Is?

surgery3.jpgSurgeons make mistakes in the operating room. And when they do, patients can be severely hurt.

Now there’s a new tool that allows patients to see for themselves how often a doctor makes surgical errors before deciding whether or not to entrust him or her with their lives.

ProPublica, an independent and not-for-profit group of journalists, recently investigated the rate of surgical mistakes made in the United States by reviewing Medicare patient data from 2009 to 2013. The group examined errors during surgery for eight common elective procedures, including prostate removal and hip and knee replacements.

Each case involved either a patient death while in the hospital following surgery or the patient having to be readmitted within 30 days following the procedure.

Almost 17,000 surgeons were included in this effort, which resulted in an online searchable “surgeon scorecard.” Visitors can search the database by surgeon to see how many times he or she made a mistake during one of the eight procedures. Patients and their families can also search by location and hospital name.

Some Surgeons Account for Large Number of Mistakes

ProPublica said it found that 11 percent of the surgeons made 25 percent of the reported medical mistakes. So it appears there are a number of negligent surgeons who repeat their mistakes.

Common Surgical Errors

Not every person scheduled for surgery will use this tool. And because it does not include private insurance data, there are limitations to uncovering even more rates of common surgical errors, which include:

• Operating on the wrong part of a patient’s body

• Leaving surgical tools in a patient’s body

• Errors in administering anesthesia

This new resource won’t stop surgeons from making preventable major errors. Some doctors will still behave carelessly, gravely injuring patients as a result. If you were seriously hurt by a surgeon’s mistake, or had a family member die as a result of an error in the operating room, an attorney who represents victims of medical malpractice can pursue just compensation for your losses.

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