WHAT IS A SURGICAL "NEVER EVENT"?

When you're preparing for surgery, you may have some concerns heading into the operating room: "What if I have a bad reaction to the anesthesia?" or perhaps, "what if they find something more concerning while they're operating?" One thing you shouldn't have to wonder is, "what if the surgeons operate on the wrong part of my body?" The term "never events" is used in the medical field to describe a type of medical error that should never happen, but does. The Patient Safety Network defines never events as "adverse events that are unambiguous (clearly identifiable and measurable), serious (resulting in death or significant disability), and usually preventable." 

Although they are called "never events," these surgical errors happen with alarming frequency. One 2013 study found that such events occur approximately 80 times a week, nationwide. Many states require that such incidents be publicly reported, and, in an effort to increase accountability, many insurers (including Medicare/Medicaid) will not cover any costs associated with wrong-site surgeries.

There are 29 defined never events, under six categories, one of which is surgical. There are five surgical never events: Surgery performed on the wrong body part; surgery performed on the wrong patient; a wrong surgical procedure performed on a patient; leaving an object in a patient after surgery; and the death of an otherwise healthy patient during or immediately after surgery. The most common surgical never event is when a foreign object is left behind in a patient after the completion of surgery, which occurs in 1 in every 10,000 surgeries, according to a recent study. These objects can include sponges, towels, instruments, needles, clamps, or gauze. So-called retained objects can cause serious infection, bowel perforation, serious pain, and organ malfunction. They can even require the patient to again assume the risks of an additional surgery to remove the objects. Had the surgical team followed operating room best practices, such as performing an initial count of surgical objects followed by a count prior to closing up any body cavities, such incidents could have almost always been prevented.

If you have been injured by a preventable surgical accident in New Jersey, contact the experienced and knowledgeable Morristown medical malpractice attorneys at Smith & Doran for a consultation, at 973-292-0016.

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