“Never Events” Happen

Surgeons make ["never event"] mistakes more than 4,000 times a year in the U.S., according to a study led by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, published online in the journal Surgery. The study, using data in the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository of medical-malpractice judgments and out-of-court settlements, looked at cases involving leaving an object inside a patient, wrong-site surgeries, wrong procedures and wrong-patient surgeries…

In the 9,744 cases identified between 1990 and 2010, just over 6% of patients died, 32.9% had permanent injury and 59.2% suffered temporary injury, according to the researchers…

Hospitals have been working for years on safety programs to reduce such events, including “timeouts” before surgery to make sure they have the right patient or are about to operate on the right body part. New technology, such as bar-coding and wandlike scanners waved over a patient, allows surgical teams to account for all sponges and other products used in a procedure. Other steps include using indelible ink to mark the site of the surgery before the patient goes under anesthesia.

More from Laura Landro in the WSJ on physicians’ errors.

Comments (3)

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  1. Ken says:

    This is hard to believe.

  2. Jeff says:

    I think it is rather stunning that these events happen at all.

  3. Alice says:

    “researchers estimate that a surgeon in the United States leaves a foreign object such as a sponge or a towel inside a patient’s body after an operation 39 times a week, performs the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a week and operates on the wrong body site 20 times a week.”

    Crazy.