Michael H. Bereston, Inc.

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"Never event" surgeries occur 4,000 times a year

A "never event" is a surgical mistake that is completely preventable and should never occur. For example, doctors may strictly follow every procedure but there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of infection. But there are numerous ways to ensure that sponges are not left inside of a patient's body. A study from Johns Hopkins estimates that at least 4,000 of these never events occur annually.

The study, published in the journal Surgery, utilized data from the National Practitioner Data Bank to identify malpractice judgments and settlements related to foreign object left inside of patients. The NPDB is a good source of information for these sorts of claims because they are easily verified, so these numbers are fairly accurate. For instance, a sponge or pair of scissors can be confirmed with a simple x-ray.

The researchers identified 9,744 paid malpractice judgments for a total of $1.3 billion. The study reviewed cases from 1990 to 2010. The researchers identify one issue that likely skews the numbers low; specifically, that hospitals only need to report to the NPDB when never events result in a lawsuit or settlement.

Unfortunately, foreign objects left inside bodies are sometimes not reported because patients only come forward if there are complications. So there is no reason to look inside of a patient unless there are obstruction or pain issues. Due to this, the researchers estimate that the actual rate of never events is likely higher.

There are already safety procedures in place to reduce never events. Many hospitals count surgical instruments and supplies, like sponges, use indelible ink to mark proper surgery locations and have mandatory timeout periods to review patient charts and information. But more can be done to reduce these errors. The researchers advocate mandatory reporting of all errors, regardless if there was a lawsuit or settlement, and using bar codes to scan equipment.

If you underwent surgery and had to go back because the hospital found a foreign object inside of you then you may want to speak to a lawyer. You should not have to pay for a second surgery to correct an issue that never should have occurred. An attorney can review your options and help you determine how best to proceed.

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Office Location

Michael H. Bereston, Inc.
138 Main Street, Suite 200
P.O. Box 2990
Annapolis, MD 21401

Maryland: 410-793-4554
Toll Free: 866-517-4037
Baltimore/Annapolis: 410-269-5011
DC: 202-628-2226
Fax: 410-269-5022

Annapolis Medical Malpractice Office

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