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Surgical errors are "never events"

A major surgical error occurs when a surgeon fails to perform his or her duties according to generally accepted standards of good medical practice. At Miracle, Pruzan & Pruzan, we agree with hospital administrators and employees who refer to major surgical errors as "never events" because they should never happen in the first place. Nevertheless, the unfortunate reality is that "never events" do occur in hospitals around the country, including Washington. While they do not happen often, they happen more often than they should.

Even a prestigious medical facility like the Mayo Clinic is not immune; among 1.5 million invasive procedures performed there over the course of a five-year study, researchers identified 69 "never events." The most common "never event" to occur in the Mayo Clinic study was performing the wrong procedure, while the least common was putting in the wrong implant. Other "never events" tracked by the study included leaving foreign objects inside patients' bodies and performing surgery at the wrong location or on the wrong side.

Another way of interpreting the results of the Mayo Clinic study is that one "never event" occurs in approximately every 22,000 procedures performed at the facility. Another study estimates the rate of "never events" occurring during surgery on a national level to be one in 12,000 procedures, nearly double the rate observed at the Mayo Clinic.

Both studies demonstrate that your chances of a "never event" occurring during your surgery are very small. Nevertheless, even one surgery complicated by a major surgical error is too many. More information about surgical errors is available on our website.

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