Medical mistakes in surgery can prove devastating for patients

You trust your doctor with your health, quality of life and even your life itself. This is especially true when you need to go in for surgery. Whether it's the removal of a tumor, the correction of a valve problem in your heart or even a joint replacement, surgeries are risky, invasive medical procedures that can cause a host of issues, even if properly performed.

Sadly, medical mistakes in surgery are actually quite common. For the patients who end up hurt due to a doctor's mistake or negligence, the ongoing costs can include medical expenses, increased pain levels, longer recovery times and even a worse prognosis for the condition. Patients may need to carefully examine what happened to determine if the event constitutes medical malpractice.

Major surgical errors happen every week in the United States

When researchers look at medical mistakes, they always separate unusual and unpredictable circumstances, like an unknown allergy or congenital condition, from preventable issues, like medical mistakes. Serious mistakes, also called never events, are obvious issues that should never happen in a professional medical setting.

An analysis of reported medical mistakes from 1990 to 2010 found that in those 20 years, there were roughly 20,000 of these surgical never events in the United States. The most common issue was accidentally leaving something inside a patent after surgery.

Sponges, towels and gauze for catching liquids are common, but metal implements and other tools can also end up left inside a patient after surgery. Even if the item is soft and small, it presents a severe risk of serious infection. That typically means a second surgery in the near future, which can be incredibly taxing on the human body. About 39 patients each week have a surgeon leave a foreign object in their body.

Twenty other patients will have a doctor perform the wrong procedure on them, while another 20 people will have the right surgery performed on the wrong area of the body. Both of these scenarios create a lot of medical risk for the patient. Patients have to deal with the trauma of surgery, the physical impact of a procedure on the wrong place or the wrong operation altogether, and still need to have their original surgery performed.

Help hold surgeons accountable for these kinds of mistakes

Even if your doctor offers to fix the mistake without charging you for the surgery, that doesn't undo the damage of a major surgical mistake. In the wake of a surgical never event, you need to carefully consider your options. Filing a medical malpractice claim against the doctor and/or hospital may be one way to ensure that the same thing doesn't happen to another patient in the future. It can also help offset your losses, both physical and financial, because of a medical mistake.

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