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What are some common types of surgical errors?

The prospect of having to undergo an operation, even a minor one, is frightening. Illinois residents may fear that something will go wrong during the procedure or during the recovery period that could lead to complications or even death. Unfortunately, these fears are not unfounded. Sometimes, physician negligence leads to surgical errors that have devastating consequences. Even more terrifying is many of these medical mistakes can be prevented.

For example, according to some studies, as many as 4,000 individuals nationwide who undergo a surgical procedure have a foreign object left inside their body. This commonly includes sponges, but can also include metal objects, such as scissors, scalpels and clamps.

In addition, as many as one in 20 individuals who have to stay in the hospital following an operation will contract an infection. Up to 98,000 individuals nationwide pass away every year due to such infections. Infections are often caused by poor hygiene on the part of medical professionals caring for a patient.

One surprising, but often dangerous, situation that could cause a patient harm during an operation is when a patient falls. Individuals who are preparing to go into surgery must be properly strapped to the operating table. If they are not, they could fall off while they are under general anesthesia.

Another common medical mistake is medication errors. For example, a physician might issue a prescription for the wrong type of medication or the improper dosage of the right medication. In addition, nurses might give a patient the wrong dosage of a medication or might not give the patient the right medication at all.

Finally, it is not unheard of for surgeons to operate on the wrong part of the patient's body, or operate on the wrong patient. Although this mistake may seem completely avoidable, which it is, it still occurs far too frequently for comfort.

Any of these mix-ups can cause a person serious harm, on top of the medical issue that necessitated treatment in the first place. When this happens, patients should keep in mind that they may have legal options available to them. In some situations, it is possible to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the negligent physician, as well as the hospital where he or she works. Not only is this a way for patients to seek compensation for the harms they suffered, but it can also serve as a means for holding negligent physicians accountable for their actions.

Source: FindLaw, "5 Ways Surgery Errors Can Lead to Lawsuits," Andrew Lu, Dec. 17, 2012

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