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Study finds human error behind half of surgical mistakes

More than half of all surgical adverse events suffered by patients in San Antonio and elsewhere are the fault of human error, according to a new study. The study was published in JAMA Network Open on July 31.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine conducted a six-month analysis of surgical adverse events to identify preventable surgical errors and improve the quality of care. The data came from three teaching hospitals and involved adverse events from abdominal transplantation services, acute day care surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, general surgery and vascular surgery. Over the period of study, 5,300 surgeries were performed. During those surgeries, 188 adverse events occurred, including those that involved infection, bleeding, neurological complication, rehospitalization and death. Of those 188 adverse events, 106 were attributed to human error, including lack of attention, lack of recognition and cognitive bias. Nearly 55% of the events happened during surgery, 8% happened in pre-op, and about 27% happened in post-op.

According to the authors of the study, their findings indicate that approximately 400,000 surgical adverse outcomes could be prevented each year if human errors were eliminated. To help achieve that, they recommend that hospitals develop simulation-based cognitive training for surgeons and other health care practitioners. They also urge hospitals to schedule regular conferences to review adverse events in real time, which will help medical staff learn from the event.

Victims of surgical errors could be left with long-term health conditions or permanent disabilities. In order to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and other costs, some victims choose to file a medical malpractice lawsuit with the help of an attorney. Victims may have their case evaluated and learn more about their legal options by contacting a law firm that handles medical negligence cases.

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