Fayetteville surgical patients: Stay safe in the operating room

Published December 6, 2012

When you must undergo surgery, you have to place a certain amount of trust in the knowledge and ability of your physician. When surgeons act negligently and do not comply with a proper standard of care, the consequences can be severe and even fatal. Such was the case in an incident involving a Fayetteville surgeon, which tragically resulted in the death of a patient. Recently, the doctor was ordered to pay over $6 million to the patient's family.

The patient was a woman with cancer, who required surgery to remove a portion of the cancer. While in the operating room, the surgeon neglected to remove a sponge before closing the patient. The physician did not ensure the sponges were counted before concluding the surgery. The error was not discovered for 10 weeks following the operation.

The sponge led to a number of infections that ultimately prevented the patient from being able to undergo continuing cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation. The patient died because she could not receive the necessary treatments.

Unfortunately, this was not the first - and likely will not be the last - time physician negligence has led to the untimely death of a patient. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that about 100,000 Americans die as a result of "preventable medical mistakes" every year.

Doctors should take precautions to avoid surgical errors

In order to decrease the number of preventable surgical errors each year, many hospitals have adopted different techniques to ensure surgeons are providing a high level of care.

In the operating room, surgical checklists are one technique that has been gaining traction in recent years. The World Health Organization recommended a 19-step checklist for use before, during and after surgical procedures. According to one study conducted in eight different countries, the checklist was extremely effective. The results from the study showed that using the checklist reduced fatalities by 47 percent. In addition, the number of complications after surgery fell by 36 percent with the implementation of the checklist.

In addition, common sense suggestions that are often overlooked in hospitals - such as ensuring the surgeons get enough sleep - should be a priority. Doctors who are fatigued are more likely to make errors.

Of course, it is also wise for patients to take a proactive approach when it comes to their healthcare needs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a list of " 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors," for patients to use as a resource.

When a medical error leads to a tragedy, the injured party has rights to recover financially for the damage caused. In such situations, consulting with an experienced Fayetteville personal injury attorney will ensure the patient's rights are protected and just compensation is received.