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Ways to avoid mistakes in the operating room

If you have had surgery, it can be quite a stressful experience to know that you will have anesthesia and a doctor operate on you. While a surgical procedure is not always something to look forward to, it is often necessary for a person’s health. You trusted that your doctor would provide the care you need and perform the procedure well.  

Unfortunately for some patients, surgical errors do happen. Mistakes in the operating room are “never events,” meaning they should never happen. These types of missteps can result in serious complications and irreversible harm to the patient, specifically wrong-site, wrong-procedure and wrong-patient surgeries. Certain procedures and mechanisms can reduce the chance of these types of events from ever happening.

What can go wrong?

Surgery errors are quite rare, but they do happen. With the right procedures in place, these “never events” should not occur. Common surgical errors include: 

  • Wrong-patient surgery, which happens when a procedure is done on the wrong patient, perhaps because of similar names or medical conditions
  • Wrong-site surgery, which happens when the right procedure is done to the right patient, but in the wrong location, such as on the wrong level of the spine
  • Wrong-procedure surgery, which happens when the surgeon performs an operation that is not medically necessary or appropriate for the individual patient

These types of mistakes do not always happen inside an operating room. Mistakes and harmful complications can still take place in bedside procedures, ambulatory surgery, radiology procedures and certain types of outpatient procedures. 

Preventing these never events

Studies found that one of the main cause of certain types of surgical errors is communication failure. Improvement in communication between doctors, nurses, technicians and the patients can greatly improve patient safety. An example of this is a surgical time-out before a procedure, which simply allows time for a review of the procedure, the steps involved, the risks and the objective of the operation. The implementation of surgical safety checklists can also improve safety and reduce the chance of mistakes.

If you suffered because of a mistake made during surgery, you do not have to suffer in silence. You have the right to seek appropriate compensation through a medical malpractice claim. Your situation seems overwhelming, but the New York civil justice systems allows for victims of negligence and recklessness to hold liable parties accountable and seek financial restitution.