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Study Reveals Surgical Errors Are Putting Patients at Risk

As we highlighted in yesterday’s post, surgical errors continue to put patients at risk, despite efforts to hold hospitals more accountable. In fact, according to a recent study by Johns Hopkins researchers, surgeons make over 4,000 preventable mistakes every year.

The study examined “never events” that are always preventable. They include retained foreign bodies in patients, surgery on the wrong site, surgery on the wrong patient, or the wrong surgical procedure carried out on the right patient.

In the 9,744 cases examined by the researchers, more than 6 percent of patients died, while 32.9 percent suffered permanent injury. Retention of foreign bodies was the most common surgical error, making up almost half of all cases (49.8%).

As the Los Angeles Times reports, California hospitals are not immune to these errors. In fact, they have reported more than 850 incidents involving retained foreign bodies in the last five years, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. Four of the ten hospitals fined by the agency last month were penalized for leaving surgical items—from sponges to syringes— inside patients.

Even more alarming, the study’s lead author, Martin Makary, believes that the study likely underestimates the problem, as many patients never file claims after errors. In addition, many mistakes may go undetected.