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Study says surgical mistakes happen in half of all procedures

With the amount of medical malpractice claims that are filed across the country, including many here in Illinois, researchers are attempting to identify the problem areas. A recent study revealed that surgical mistakes happen in nearly half of all procedures, but the surgical mistakes are not coming from surgeons. The anesthesiologists, resident physicians and nurse anesthetists who are tasked with administering and monitoring the medications given to patients are making the mistakes.

Even if a hospital has a sophisticated system of checks and balances, room for human error remains. In addition, the introduction of new medications and procedures can increase the rate of errors. The study also discovered that in many of the procedures in which a medication mistake was made, patients were not being properly monitored while in the operating room where their conditions can change rapidly.

Researchers observed approximately 277 procedures at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is considered to be one of the top hospitals in the United States. In the cases where something went wrong, 69 percent of them were labeled as serious, 30 percent were considered to be significant and an alarming 2 percent were life-threatening. The length of the surgery also contributed to the possibility of an error occurring.

While researchers, hospitals and medical personnel attempt to eliminate as many surgical mistakes involving medication as possible, patients continue to suffer harm. Illinois residents who are seriously or fatally injured during a procedure retain the right to file medical malpractice claims against the party or parties believed to be responsible. Not only could a successfully litigated claim result in an award of damages, but it could also lead to a change in policies and procedures that could prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Source:, "Previous estimates of medication errors in the operating room have relied doctors' own estimates.", June 11, 2016

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