Study Finds More Than 4,000 Patients Hurt by Preventable Surgical Mistakes Every Year in Illinois and Throughout the Nation

A study recently published in the journal Surgery claims that at least 4,000 preventable surgical mistakes occur in the United States every year. Such mistakes are generally referred to as “never events” because they are the sort of hospital or physician errors that should never occur. Examples of preventable mistakes include performing an operation on the wrong side of a patient or leaving a foreign object such as a sponge inside of someone following surgery. Although preventable surgical mistakes reportedly result in temporary harm about 59 percent of the time, 33 percent of individuals affected experience a permanent injury and about seven percent of never events prove fatal.

As part of the recent study, researchers reportedly analyzed data collected from the National Practitioner Data Bank between 1990 and 2010. The study found that an estimated $1.3 billion in medical malpractice claims were paid following about 10,000 preventable surgical mistakes during the time period analyzed. Study authors estimate that doctors across the nation perform the wrong procedure on patients about 20 times per week. In addition, an object is unintentionally left inside of a patient about 39 times per week and physicians allegedly operate on the wrong body part about 20 times each week. Researchers reportedly believe such events actually occur at a much higher rate than reported.

According to Dr. Marty Makary, Associate Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, many so-called never events go unreported for a variety of reasons. For example, not all foreign objects that are left behind by surgeons are discovered. Makary said such errors are often only revealed after a patient experiences complications. Additionally, hospitals are allegedly only required to report never events that result in a medical malpractice judgment or settlement.

The recent study claims that about one-third of surgical mistakes are performed by a physician who is between the ages of 40 and 49. In contrast, only about 14 percent of preventable surgical mistakes reportedly occur at the hands of a doctor who is over age 60. Researchers also found that about two-thirds of surgeons who made preventable errors were previously cited for malpractice. In addition, more than 12 percent of surgeons were implicated in more than one never event.

Dr. Donald Fry, Executive Vice President at Chicago-based health care think tank Michael Pine and Associates, said the frequency at which never events occur in hospitals throughout the country is alarming. He also stated many medical professionals do not like to discuss such events. Fry reportedly believes that increased teamwork between surgeons, nurses, and others in the operating room may help to reduce the rate of preventable surgical mistakes. He also said a culture of safety should be fostered by more hospitals.

Medical malpractice results when a surgeon, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, or other health care professional fails to provide his or her patient with a reasonable standard of medical care and the patient is injured. Unfortunately, preventable surgical mistakes may cause painful and lifelong damage or unexpected death. If a physician or other medical professional negligently hurt you or someone you love, you should discuss your case with a skilled medical malpractice lawyer today.

If you were injured or a close relative died after being treated by a surgeon or other healthcare professional, please contact the dedicated attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. Our knowledgeable Chicago Metro medical malpractice lawyers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist you with your personal injury case. For a free consultation with a diligent personal injury attorney, do not hesitate to call Abels & Annes, P.C. at (312) 475-9596.

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Woman Sues Bedford Park Go-Kart Racing Facility for Negligence in Cook County Court, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 17, 2013
Additional Resources:

Thousands of Mistakes Made in Surgery Every Year, by Jennifer Warner,


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