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Surgical errors abound, says North Carolina doctor

A neurologist from North Carolina's Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center led a study about the prevalence of wrong-site spinal surgeries and found that at least half of neurosurgeons specializing in spinal surgery admitted performing at least one wrong-site surgery during their careers. He and his colleagues now hope to raise awareness about the prevalence of these potentially life-altering medical mistakes.

From the patient's perspective, even one surgical error is too many, but statistics show that around 35 surgical errors are made each and every week in the United States. Unfortunately, that number translates into nearly 2000 wrong-site surgeries each year. For those patients who have been the victims of these errors, the injuries range in severity from those requiring the surgery to be performed a second time to those that cause a patient's wrongful death.

How can so many surgical mistakes be allowed to happen? At least one explanation is that a lack of safety checklists and protocols leave surgeons, surgical teams and care teams at risk of making basic errors such as marking the correct body part to be operated upon. While it might seem impossible that a group of medical professionals could make such a basic mistake, they can and do injure patients.

North Carolina hospitals and doctors who perform surgeries must increase their vigilance about this type of medical malpractice. If the facilities and surgeons are aware of these statistics, perhaps they will step back and focus on the routine, mandatory use of the basic safety protocols known to prevent surgical errors from occurring.

If you are planning on having surgery, educate yourself about what to expect. If you have any questions or doubts, do not keep silent. Hospitals, health care facilities, surgeons and other medical professionals have the responsibility to ensure the safety of each and every patient.

The spinal surgery error study appears in the November edition of the journal Neurosurgery Focus.

Source: International Business Times, "Wrong-Site Surgeries Persist, Despite Hospital Safety Measures," Kirk Klocke, Nov. 9, 2011

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Surgical errors abound, says North Carolina doctor | Britton Law, P.A.