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Study Raises Concerns With Frequency Of Dangerous Hospital Errors

Surgery can be a scary idea under any circumstances. A new hospital safety study, however, suggests that surgery patients are at higher risk of medical errors than many people expect. The study, conducted over two years at a major teaching hospital in London, concluded that patients suffered an average of four or five mistakes after each surgery. Of those, around 50 percent were harmful.

The study looked at 50 patients and the quality of care that they received after surgery. Researchers spotted 352 after surgery errors. 256 of these errors were "process failure" mistakes-in other words, situations in which hospital staff failed to follow proper procedures. As one of the study's authors noted, this kind of mistake is very often preventable.

Two of the most common mistakes were miscommunications between medical staff and unnecessary delays in providing treatment. Although completely preventable, both of these issues can have catastrophic consequences for patients. The study cited one situation in which staff concluded that a diagnostic scan showed only normal results. When the staff looked at it again, however, they did find a problem. Shockingly, no one communicated this to the surgeon.

In sum, the researchers said that 85 percent of the post-surgery process errors were preventable-75 percent of those mistakes hurt patients.

While not every medical mistake or error is a serious threat to patient health, this is a concerning error rate and certainly some problems do lead to significant patient injuries. This is just one more reminder that patients and family members need to watch carefully for indications of medical malpractice.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Study finds errors in post-surgery care are common," Kerry Grens, Oct. 2, 2012

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