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Mending A Broken Heart: Surgical Errors


There are thousands of heart surgeries performed in the United States every day.  For those having these operations, surgical errors are the last thing they want to worry about.  In 2012, researchers estimated that at least 4,000 surgical errors occur in the United States every year that should never happen.  This reality is nerve-racking for the faint-of-heart going in for any type of surgery.  However, if you understand what kinds of preventable errors could occur, you can take the initiative to ensure you or your loved one receives a safe procedure.

Surgical Errors: Never Events

Unfortunately, surgeons cannot always predict the effects of surgery on a patient.  However, surgical errors do not refer to this.  A surgical error is defined as a preventable mistake during surgery; these errors are called “never events,” meaning they should never occur if the surgeon follows proper procedures.  You may be required to sign an “informed consent” form that says you are aware that surgery involves risk.  Surgical errors are not covered by the form because they’re unexpected and preventable.

Types of Surgical Errors

Here are the most common types of errors made that are completely preventable:

  • Surgical instruments are left in the patient (like sponges or tools)
  • Operating on the wrong patient/conducting the wrong procedure
  • Operating on the wrong body part or side of the patient

Ways to Ensure A Safe Procedure

While a safe surgery is ultimately up to the surgeon, there are things you can do to help decrease the risk of surgical errors.

  • Ask Questions: In the appointment before your surgery, ask the doctor all of the questions you have.  Ask what you should or shouldn’t do before surgery, what the procedure entails, and any symptoms you may experience afterwards.
  • Confirm the Right Spot is Marked: Before surgery, a healthcare professional will mark the spot or spots where surgery will occur.  Confirm with the surgeon that the correct site is marked; even if you confirm the site with nurses, it’s important to be on the same page with the person who’s actually operating.
  • Have Support: Take a family member or friend with you who can be there for the entire surgery.  If you’re asleep before they mark the operating site, get a family member or friend to confirm the site with the surgeon.  If you or the person with you feels uncomfortable about the surgeon, speak up.  Surgeons work long hours and can be fatigued if your surgery is towards the end of their shift, which is the perfect environment for mistakes to be made.
  • Know the Proper Meds to Take: Make sure you know the medications you’re supposed to take and the times when you should take them.  Ask before and after surgery to confirm that you’ve got accurate information.
  • Report Symptoms Immediately: The more the doctor and surgeon knows about you, the better.  If you experience any symptoms, tell your doctor or surgeon immediately so that any problems can be addressed quickly.

Whether it’s wisdom tooth removal or heart surgery, every operation is serious.  Protect yourself and your loved ones from surgical errors through preventative actions to ensure that surgery goes smoothly.  If you’ve been injured because of a surgical error, contact Colley & Colley law firm in Tyler, Texas for a free consultation.