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Study into surgical errors indicates how to avoid them

| Jun 5, 2015 | Surgical Errors

For people in Newton, surgery is an intimidating enough proposition without having to think about the possibility of surgical errors being committed by the medical staff. Unfortunately, they do happen. Research examines the circumstances surrounding these mistakes and attempts to explain why they occur. This research went back five years and 1.5 million procedures, finding 69 mistakes.

While some mistakes are due to reasons other than human error, 628 were because of human behaviors — approximately four to nine percent. Among those mistakes were 24 instances of the wrong procedure being done, 22 were wrong-site surgery or wrong side surgeries, 18 were surgical equipment left inside a patient and five were placing the wrong implant in the body. These mistakes happened at the Mayo Clinic where the research was conducted. No one died as a result.

The total of mistakes came to an estimated one in 22,000 procedures that were performed. Across the country, other research has indicated that there are far more mistakes than those at the Mayo Clinic with one in approximately 12,000. Many of the procedures at Mayo — two-thirds — involved procedures that were considered minor. While medical professionals are thought to be skillful, that does not alter natural human behaviors that can cause errors. The number of ways that mistakes can happen is often linked to failure to communicate or simply pay attention. Other reasons for errors include unsafe actions, failure to maintain oversight or supervision, organizational issues and lack of communication.

Simple acts to avoid serious injury from surgical errors have been found to be effective. These include making certain to count the pieces of equipment like sponges before completing the surgery. It also includes going over checklists, pausing before making incisions and holding meetings prior to moving forward with the surgery.

Even with the increased scrutiny and studies that are examining how and why these surgical errors happen, there is still a chance they will harm a patient who is undergoing a procedure. If there is a surgical mistake, the victims should understand their rights by discussing the matter with a legal professional about filing litigation.

Source:, “How does human behavior lead to surgical errors? Researchers count the ways,” accessed on June 2, 2015


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