Preventing surgical errors: What can be done?

There are guidelines surgical professionals use in order to minimize patients’ risk of error in the operating room.

When patients enter the operating room, they may not expect to become the next victim of a surgical error. A number of people in Washington and across the U.S., however, leave the O.R. in worse shape than when they entered. Researchers reported that more than 4,000 people are victimized by operating room mistakes every year, according to Medical News Today. In response to the surprising number of errors that occur in country, some medical facilities have implemented certain operating room procedures and guidelines. These protocols may help to reduce the likelihood that surgical errors will occur in the future.

How do surgical errors occur?

The operating room can become a chaotic environment, and in some cases, this can cause an atmosphere that is inducive to error. Surgical mistakes can also occur when there is miscommunication about what procedure is being performed or what body part is being operated on. Physician fatigue and other forms of negligence can also spell disaster for patients in the operating room. Whatever the cause may be, surgical mistakes can leave patients with serious infections, conditions and other issues that they may have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, many of these mistakes are preventable.

Preventative protocols

One strategy surgical professionals use to prevent errors is to take periodic timeouts throughout a procedure. These breaks give surgeons time to reevaluate their operating techniques, and allow staff to account for all pieces of equipment.

Surgeons, anesthesiologists and other professionals in the operating room are also encouraged to meet with patients prior to the procedure. During this time, physicians can verify crucial patient information, as well as what surgery is being performed. Some surgeons will actually mark the surgical site beforehand in order to avoid making a mistake in the O.R.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, new and improved technology may save lives when it comes to ensuring a patient's safety in the operating room. Bar coding and radiofrequency technology allows operating room staff to scan and account for surgical sponges and other items that may be left behind in a patient's surgical site. Outdated methods of manually counting these supplies have led to an increased risk of retained surgical items.

Recovering from a surgical error

If you are the victim of a surgical error, physician negligence or another form of medical malpractice, you may not know where to turn to for help. You may have had to undergo further surgical operations or other painful treatments as a result of a physician's mistake. A personal injury attorney in Washington may be helpful in answering any questions you may have regarding your case and could help point you in the right direction.