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Common surgical mistakes happen more than you think

Despite their prevalence in movies, books and television shows, most people don't seem to think that medical mistakes happen very often. After all, doctors have years of training, as well as hands-on experience during their residency to prepare them to provide excellent care for their patients. Surgeons, in particular, hold a position of respect due to the complexity of the services they provide.

While that education and experience make surgeons competent to do things the average person wouldn't dream of, they don't mean that doctors or surgeons are immune from making mistakes at work. Unlike with the average employee, however, mistakes made by a surgeon can have major medical and financial consequences for the person being treated at the time of the mistake.

Surgical mistakes happen every week in the United States

An analysis of medical statistics from 1990 and 2010 revealed more than 10,000 incidents involving mistakes that should simply never happen in a modern medical facility. These issues, called never events, are situations that should simply never happen. Researchers found that every week, dozens of people in our country end up injured due to never events in surgery.

The most common of these events occurs when a doctor leaves a foreign object inside a patient following a surgery. Sponge, gauze and even surgical tools could cause internal infection, delay or prevent tissue healing or even cause severe internal injuries. Sadly, this situation occurs about 39 times every week in the U.S. alone.

As if that weren't horrifying enough, many surgeons also make serious mistakes about what surgery to do and where to perform the operation. Twenty patients each week suffer through the wrong procedure. That can result in many issues, including the need for a second surgery while still recovering from the first. Another 20 patients will receive the property surgery, only performed on the wrong body site. Removing the wrong kidney or knee joint could damage the body, while also leaving the initial concern unaddressed.

Patients have the right to push back against medical mistakes

Many times, when surgeons or other staff realize there's been a mistake, they will take steps to mitigate risk as soon as possible. It's common for hospitals to offer free corrective procedures after a mistake, but they may not offer compensation to offset the pain, lost wages and other costs associated with a major surgical mistake.

Those who have become victims of this kind of mistake have the right to seek compensation. It may be possible to file a medical malpractice claim against the surgeon, hospital or both, depending on the circumstances. While such a lawsuit cannot undue the damage of a surgical mistake, it can reduce the financial impact.

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