A surgical error is an avoidable mistake during surgery. There is an element of risk associated with any surgery and it is standard practice to sign an informed consent before undergoing surgery. Surgical errors, however, go beyond the known risks of a surgery - they are unexpected.
The causes of surgical errors can be wide-ranging and no two surgeries are identical, so the underlying cause can be very unique. Blumers Lawyers are experts in medical negligence cases, here are their top 6 causes of surgical errors which can result in permanent damage:
- Incompetence – in some cases a surgeon can have either not performed the procedure before or lacks the ability to perform the surgery successfully, however they still attempted the procedure.
- Lack of preparation – It is critical that a surgeon be well-prepared. This can include reviewing, and preparing for, any complications that are likely to occur. It can also include proper preparation by nurses and assistants to ensure all the necessary equipment is ready and available when needed by the surgeon.
- Not following the correct process – Surgeons may mistakenly determine that certain steps during a surgery are unnecessary. Taking shortcuts can be very costly when it comes to surgery.
- Poor communication – Failure to communicate properly can result in a number of critical errors. For example, a surgeon may mark the wrong site for surgery, or fail to make sure all surgical equipment is properly on hand. There can also be miscommunication about proper dosage of a patient’s medication.
- Fatigue – Surgeons notoriously work long shifts which can lead to fatigue. Just like driving a vehicle, tired people are more likely to make mistakes.
- Lack of care – Sometimes surgeons are simply not as careful as they should be. This could include failing to ensure their instruments are properly sterilised or make the decision to use surgical equipment which was known to be defective.
In 2015-16, there were 82 sentinel events across Australia according to the Productivity Commission’s report on government health services. Sentinel events are adverse events that result in death or very serious harm to the patient.
The events outlined in the report included:
- Procedures involving the wrong patient or body part that resulted in death or major permanent loss of function.
- Instruments left in patients’ bodies after surgery. Each of the occasions required that a second operation be performed to remove.
- Incorrect administration of drugs
- Blood transfusions where the wrong blood type was used
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