According to a report by medical insurer Coverys, surgical errors are the second most common basis for medical malpractice claims in the United States.
Coverys recently published the findings of a study into the role of surgical errors in medical malpractice liability claims. The researchers found that out of the 10,000 cases they studied, 25% were based on surgical errors. The researchers based their analysis on cases that were filed between 2014 and 2018, and found that claims based on diagnostic errors were the most common with as many as 32% of the claims based on diagnostic errors, including misdiagnosis or wrong diagnosis, delayed diagnosis and other types of errors.
Out of the 10,000 medical malpractice claims that were analysed, 2,579 were based on surgical errors. Out of these, an overwhelming majority, or more than 75% were the result of surgical practices during the operation itself. General surgery accounted for the highest number of claims with 22% of the claims involving this field, while orthopaedic surgeries accounted for 17%, and neurological surgeries accounted for 8% of the claims.
The unfortunate fact was that 29% of the injuries resulted in permanent harm to the patient, and about 9 percent of the injuries resulted in the patient’s death.
Approximately 39 percent of the claims mentioned the surgeon’s lack of technical skills, while 27% blamed lack of communication during the procedure for the error. Performing the wrong surgery accounted for 4% of the claims, while leaving behind a foreign object in the body accounted for 7% of the claims.
Surgical errors can be of various types. There can be wrong site surgeries, surgeries performed on the wrong side of the body, surgical instruments being left behind in bodies, and other “never events” that should never occur in an American hospital. Surgical errors can be extremely traumatic for patients who have just been through a difficult surgical procedure, and find that their surgery has left them even sicker than before.