Surgical Mistakes… Big Surgical Mistakes

Surgical mistakes that seem like ‘once in a lifetime’ errors – such as operating on the wrong patient or amputating the wrong body part – occur more frequently than previously believed, a new Archives of Surgery study reports this month.

The study looked at surgical mistakes in Colorado over a six-and-a-half year period. The study found surgeons operated on the wrong patient at least 25 times and on the wrong part of the body in another 107 patients. Wrong-patient and wrong-site procedures accounted for approximately 1 in 200 medical malpractice errors in the study. While this sounds awful, one of the lead researchers believes this understates the number of “no-brainer” medical malpractice errors.

Doctors and hospitals are doing more to try to double check and triple check to reduce the number of these errors. Although the study does not say, I’ll bet the number of these errors trends down during the 6.5 years evaluated. That said, the authors and others quoted in USAToday and CNN underscore that this is a public health problem we still have not solved.