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Study finds difficulty in tracking major surgical errors

Arizona patients who have gone through surgical procedures may be interested to know that researchers with the RAND Corporation's Evidence-based Practice Center found that a number of factors contribute to major surgical errors, but the errors are so rare that it is difficult to get reliable data on them. Such occurrences are called "never events." The three types of events tracked by the researchers using data from 2004 to 2014 were surgical fires, leaving an object in a person and wrong-site surgery.

The study was conducted on behalf of the U.S. Veterans Affairs National Center for Patient Safety and published on June 10. Researchers found that wrong site surgery happened in about one out of every 100,000 surgeries and that leaving sponges or other items in a patient occurred in about one out of every 10,000 cases. In many cases, the events occurred because of poor communication.

However, researchers also identified problems with data collection regarding never events. Looking at 138 studies, the researchers were unable to determine how often surgery fires occurred. They also found that surveying eye doctors revealed wrong-site surgery in 4 out of every 10,000 operations for "lazy eye", or strabismus.

Surgical errors of this type may be catastrophic for a patient and family members alike. Even if the incident is less serious, it still may be costly in terms of medical expenses and recovery time. In these circumstances, the affected patient may wish to consult with a medical malpractice attorney to see what can be done in order to receive compensation for the damages that have been incurred.

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