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Chicago Never Events and Surgical Malpractice Claim

Surgical Errors are "Never Events"

In the medical field, the term "never events" refers to a preventable medical mistake that should never happen under any circumstances. Many surgical errors can be classified as never events, including operation on the wrong body part, or even the wrong patient. These are more than just urban legends - they are medical errors that actually occur. The following are examples of never events, mistakes that are so easily preventable that they should never be allowed to happen.

Wrong Site Surgery

Wrong site surgery refers to a procedure that is performed on the wrong location on the body. It could be the wrong eye, the wrong leg, the wrong organ, the wrong portion of the brain, etc. the wrong hand, or the wrong lung. According to the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, wrong site surgeries occur about forty times per week nationwide. Such errors usually tend to be the result of:

  • Problems with scheduling and pre-operative processes: Nurses and support staff who are vested with the responsibility of arranging, verifying, and scheduling the initial procedure also must be very careful about the notes they make and the forms that are filled out. Often, a staff member in the doctor’s office takes initial notes about location of the surgical site while simultaneously scheduling multiple procedures. Depending on the workload and the volume of patients, confusion may result. Medical personnel who check in the patient during the pre-operative process at the facility must also take extreme care. If even a single word is transposed or incorrect, a wrong site mistake may occur.
  • Ineffective communication: In addition to medical expertise, the key to any successful surgical procedure involves successful interaction and communication between all members of the medical team, including lab workers, nurses and anesthesiologists.
  • Incision mark mistakes: Whether in relation to a cosmetic surgery or a more involved invasive procedure, a mark must be made on the body indicating the location for the incision. This mark is usually made with an indelible pen or marker in the pre-operative holding area; however, errors may occur if the incision mark washes off during prep and needs to be re-applied, or if the original mark was incorrect.

Wrong site surgical errors can cause irreversible harm to a patient. For instance, the wrong limb may be amputated, or the wrong, otherwise healthy organ, may be removed. Many such mistakes may leave a patient beyond simple recovery and should be discussed with a Chicago surgical malpractice lawyer.

Wrong Surgical Procedure

Wrong procedure malpractice occurs when a surgeon performs a different procedure than was intended. For instance, a patient may go into the hospital to have their appendix removed and then wake up to find a leg missing. Like wrong site surgeries, performing the wrong type of surgery can be easily prevented and should never occur.

Wrong Patient Surgery

It should come as no surprise that surgery on the wrong patient is also categorized as a never event. Many times, this error occurs when two patients with similar names are present at the same time in a hospital or surgical facility. For this reason, it is important that medical staff ask a patient what procedure they are expecting to have before they are anesthetized.

Medical Instruments Left in the Body

Every year, many thousands of surgical patients leave the hospital with more than they had ever expected - not with a gift or a token of appreciation, but with something destined to cause them injury, discomfort, or even death. These are patients with retained medical instruments and surgical items.

During any surgery, dozens of medical instruments, clamps, forceps, and other medical hardware are used, as well as plenty of gauze, towels and cotton sponges used to soak up blood and other bodily fluids. Once these objects are left inside, the body has a natural physical response to try to reject the foreign substance. With these items trapped inside the body cavity, infection, fever, sepsis and death may follow.

It is specifically the job of certain nurses or members of the surgical team to maintain an accurate count of the surgical instruments and disposable materials, both before and after the surgery. Technological advances have made it easier than ever to find these items, meaning there is no excuse for failure to account for all items used during an operation.

Locating Retained Items with Post-Operative X-Rays

One procedure employed by some concerned hospitals is post-operative X-rays. These hospitals have chosen to X-ray every patient after surgery to check whether objects were left behind. Although such inspections take place after the patient has already been closed up and require another surgery to retrieve the item, they are preferable to the possible consequences of a retained surgical object.

Sponge Tracking Technology

In regards to retained sponges (which constitute the majority of retained medical items) the best modern preventative technology is sponge tracking. This involves embedding a tiny electronic tracking device or unique bar code in each sponge, which can be tracked or scanned to be absolutely sure that no sponge is left behind. This technology has the potential to save hospitals millions of dollars in medical malpractice lawsuit payouts and protect the health of their patients. Unfortunately, a recent survey found that less than 15 percent of surgical facilities were using this technology.

Injured in a Never Event? Take Action Today!

If you have suffered injury or lost a loved one in a never event, you deserve compensation. To get the settlement you deserve, contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at the Chicago and Arlington Heights offices of Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. Call (800) 996-4824 today for a free case evaluation.

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