Rogue Magazine Health What Are Common Surgical Errors & How Can They Be Prevented?

What Are Common Surgical Errors & How Can They Be Prevented?

What Are Common Surgical Errors & How Can They Be Prevented

In many cases, surgery is quite literally a life-saving procedure. Medical advances allow surgeons to efficiently treat a number of illnesses and medical emergencies that would have been almost certainly fatal even a short period of years ago. However, even the most skilled doctor or medical practitioner can make an error that puts a patient’s life at risk. While rare, surgical errors can have significant consequences for patients. Although a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help a victim recover compensation for their injuries, nothing can undo the life-changing mental and physical impact of a surgical error.

By highlighting concerns regarding the medical industry and identifying the need for continuous improvements in surgical safety, we hope to reduce the risk of preventable errors. Understanding the types of mistakes that can happen and the factors contributing to them empowers patients to protect their health while simultaneously building trust in the medical community.

What Are Some Common Surgical Errors?

Thankfully, surgical errors occur relatively rarely. However, it’s important to not forget that there is some element of risk to even routine, low-urgency procedures. Some surgical errors that a victim may experience include:

  • Surgical procedure performed on the wrong patient: This scenario seems like something out of a movie. Surely a surgeon couldn’t be careless enough to accidentally perform an operation on the wrong person, right? While seemingly unthinkable, this terrible mistake has happened many times due to misidentification, language barriers, inaccurate medical records, or mismatched names on a person’s identification. The consequences of a wrong-patient surgery depend on the type of procedure being performed. In some cases, the results of the unnecessary surgery can be life-threatening.
  • The wrong procedure being performed: Communication errors or misinterpretation of diagnostic results can lead to a second type of procedural error. In this case, the wrong type of surgical procedure is performed. This is particularly dangerous, as the patient’s initial medical problem will not be solved and they may now suffer from additional health issues.
  • Damage to nerves or organs: Even when a surgery is properly planned and executed, errors during the procedure can lead to permanent damage to a victim’s nerves or organs. Factors that can make this type of mistake more likely include bleeding complications, technical problems, or anatomical variations. Nerve or organ damage may increase a patient’s recovery time or require them to undergo additional treatment to repair the new issues.
  • Postoperative bleeding and blood clots: Most surgical procedures will cause some amount of bleeding. This is entirely normal and to be expected in most cases. Abnormal, excessive, or delayed bleeding can pose serious problems, however. In some cases, a victim may even experience blood clotting, which can lead to dangerous medical conditions such as pulmonary embolism. These risks are frequently more pronounced in patients with underlying medical conditions. Certain surgeries and a person’s recovery process can also influence how significant their risk is of experiencing excessive bleeding or blood clots.

Why Do These Mistakes Happen?

Medical errors are rarely caused by one solitary factor. In many cases, a number of tiny mistakes snowball into a catastrophic situation. Some of the most common factors contributing to surgical errors include:

  • Systemic issues and resource limitations: Inadequate staffing levels, overworked personnel, or lack of access to essential equipment and resources can contribute to errors. Pressure to meet quotas or financial constraints can also push healthcare systems to compromise on safety procedures, increasing the risk of mistakes.
  • Human factors and cognitive biases: Even the most skilled surgeons are fallible at the end of the day. Fatigue, distractions, and implicit biases can influence a surgeon’s judgment and make it impossible for them to properly carry out their job. Stress, time pressure, and the need for rapid decision-making during surgery can lead to errors in judgment, or lapses in awareness. These mental mistakes can detrimentally influence a patient’s outcome.
  • Inadequate training and knowledge gaps: Healthcare professionals go through rigorous training programs before they are allowed to provide care to patients. Even so, knowledge gaps or a lack of relevant field experience can increase the chances of a surgeon making critical errors. At the same time, the medical field is constantly changing. Medical professionals should undergo regular training to stay up-to-date with best practices and current medical knowledge.
  • Defective equipment and technology malfunctions: While technology has revolutionized surgery, it can also create its own fair share of problems. Software glitches, equipment failures, or inadequate maintenance can create sudden issues. Medical institutions can reduce the chances of equipment malfunctions by enforcing strict quality control, inspecting machinery regularly, and training medical experts carefully on the use of all office equipment.

How Medical Professionals Can Prevent Surgical Errors

Protecting patients from surgical mistakes requires a series of efficient safeguards. To begin with, the surgical safety checklist should always be used. A surgical safety checklist creates a set of standardized protocols for surgical procedures that should be closely followed by all members of an operating room team. They outline the steps that need to be taken before a procedure may actually begin, beginning with patient identification.

The importance of effective communication cannot be stressed enough. If there is uncertainty or doubt about any aspect of a surgical procedure, the surgeon and their team must be able to share information correctly and concisely. Many medical errors would have been prevented by effective communication within a surgical team.

In addition to focusing on collaboration and communication, surgical teams should undergo regular training and simulation exercises. Surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists should practice together frequently to help the team as a whole navigate unexpected challenges or difficult scenarios. This immersive training transforms the operating room into a crucible where teamwork is forged over countless shared experiences.

It’s crucial to remember that no amount of exercises or checklists can entirely negate the impact of human limitations. Modern technology can help medical professionals perform flawless operations. Surgical navigation systems use precision maps of the human body to help a surgeon perform precise, accurate incisions. Real-time monitoring tools alert a medical team if their patient’s vital signs are irregular. These are just a few examples of technologies that can help surgeons perform their jobs as efficiently as possible.

Protecting Patients From Preventable Surgical Errors

Surgical errors may be rare but, when they do occur, they have the potential to completely derail a patient’s life. By understanding the different types of surgical errors, recognizing why they occur, and embracing proactive prevention strategies, medical experts can build trust amongst their local communities. We hope this article helps provide crucial awareness on the types of surgical errors that can occur in the American medical industry.

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