4 Surgical Errors That Frequently Lead to Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
According to a 2016 study in The BMJ, more than 250,000 U.S. deaths can be attributed to medical errors each year. Medical errors now sit behind heart disease and cancer, respectively, as the third-most-common cause of death in the United States. Surgical errors account for a substantial chunk of these deaths.
1. Unnecessary Infections
Fortunately, the rate of health care-associated infections (HAI) has decreased in recent years. According to the CDC’s HAI Hospital Prevalence Survey, this rate fell 16% from 2011 to 2016. Still, roughly 3.2% of hospital patients test positive for at least one HAI on any given day. A 2008 Kyushu University study found that surgical site infections make up more than 15% of all healthcare-associated infections.
Although you can’t always prevent infections, some health care professionals and facilities fail to take necessary precautions to keep infections at bay. Unsanitary medical equipment and insufficient hygienic practices are two of the most common causes of surgical site infections.
Patients may be able to file surgical lawsuits against surgeons or medical practices if they can find evidence of unsanitary surgical practices. Personal injury lawyers may be able to help patients construct evidence to prove these claims.
2. Wrong-Site Surgeries
Wrong-site surgeries should never happen. Still, statistics indicate that roughly 40 wrong-site surgeries take place every week in the United States.
Surgeons across the medical field take several precautions to prevent major errors such as wrong-site surgeries. First, surgical teams verify patients’ identities. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons started a wrong-site surgery awareness campaign called “Sign Your Site,” in which surgeons mark the proper sites using unambiguous symbols. They also clearly indicate areas that they shouldn’t operate on by adding additional warnings outside of operation sites.
Although not as common as other medical errors, wrong-site surgeries are one of the most surefire surgical errors that cause lawsuits. Considering the grossly negligent, unacceptable nature of wrong-site surgeries, victims often successfully pursue medical practitioners in court. Studies have found that personal injury lawyers win malpractice awards in as many as 84% of wrong-site surgery cases.
3. Leaving Behind Surgical Instruments and Supplies
Surprisingly, surgeons accidentally leave behind medical supplies and steel medical instruments in patients’ bodies. While forgetting such items inside of a living human being might seem impossible, the American Society of Anesthesiologists says that anywhere from 4,500 to 6,000 patients leave American operating rooms with sponges, needles, scalpels, clamps, or safety pins each year.
The ASA estimates that hospital visits associated with retained surgical foreign objects cost upwards of $60,000 per patient. It also suggests that medical malpractice suits from forgotten medical equipment average roughly $150,000 per incident.
Patients may not become aware of these retained surgical foreign objects until years down the line. For example, one New England Journal of Medicine report found that a 42-year-old woman saw a doctor after suffering from chronic bloating symptoms for more than three years. After the doctor ordered a CT scan, medical imaging indicated the presence of two foreign masses inside her abdominal cavity. The patient had them promptly removed in a successful procedure.
It turns out that the 42-year-old had carried around two sponges inside her abdominal cavity for at least six years. She told doctors that the only surgeries she ever had were two C-sections, which took place six and nine years prior.
4. Nerve Pain
The central nervous system is one of the human body’s most important features. Nerves, which ultimately connect to the brain, stretch throughout the body and alert you to environmental stimuli.
In the medical field, surgically induced neuropathic pain (SNPP) is an alarmingly common result of many surgical procedures. One study found that anywhere from 10% to 50% of patients report long-lasting pain after having surgery. Loss of senses and seemingly unexplained pain are two common symptoms of SNPP.
At Rebemack Aronow & Mascolo, L.L.P. – RAM Law, we’re a medical malpractice firm that helps patients seek justice. We have three conveniently located offices across New Jersey, including New Brunswick, Somerville, and Freehold. Contact us immediately at (732) 247-3600 to see how we can help you recover from a surgery gone wrong.