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Study: Surgery Error More Frequent Than Commonly Perceived

For people needing further confirmation that doctors are not infallible and that hospital record-keeping and procedures are not routinely accurate, an exhaustive study of medical errors committed during surgery that was recently published in the Archives of Surgery provides ample proof.

The strong conclusion from the study's authors: Medical malpractice blunders in surgery are much more common than generally perceived, with reported errors from the physicians themselves probably being "the tip of the iceberg."

That assertion comes from the study's lead researcher, Dr. Philip Stahel, a Denver surgeon. His study team examined close to 30,000 records from a database maintained by a company providing malpractice insurance to more than 6,000 doctors.

The overriding factor contributing to things like wrong-patient and wrong-site procedures is invariably human error, both in the operating room and, even more commonly, in doctor's offices. Additionally, information wrongly input into patients' records leads to bad decisions in operating rooms where doctors rely upon the perceived accuracy of inaccurate information.

Dr. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery and public health at Johns Hopkins University, wrote an editorial that accompanies the study. He says that, "Each hospital, whether they publicly admit it or not, and whether or not it's discoverable in a lawsuit, has an episode of wrong-site or wrong-patient surgery either every year or once every few years."

In underscoring the frequency of a surgery gone wrong, Makary adds that, "Almost every surgeon has seen one."

Related Resource: www.cnn.com "Surgery mix-ups surprisingly common" October 18, 2010

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