Home Articles Surgical "never events" should not happen, but they occur every day

Surgical "never events" should not happen, but they occur every day

Going through a surgical procedure in Clay County or Jackson County can be frightening for patients and they must summon up the courage to put their trust in their surgeon and his team. However, surgical errors can happen through oversight, a simple mistake or obvious negligence, leaving patients with worsened conditions, new medical issues and permanent pain and suffering.

Some mistakes are relatively simple and are the kinds of errors that, plainly, should not happen because they are preventable. These errors are referred to as "never events" and one of the most common never events is retained sponges.

The numbers of never events

A Johns Hopkins University research study reveals that there are at least 4,000 of these types of surgical errors occurring in the United States every year. Medical News Today reports that every week wrong site surgeries, wrong types of surgeries, and retained sponges and surgical instruments occur on an average of 20 to 39 times. In all, between the years of 1990 and 2010, over 80,000 instances of these never events happened.

In addition to the rate of these events occurring, there are also the consequences to think about. According to this study there were medical malpractice settlements issued for 9,744 victims during the 20-year period. The monetary awards, which amounted to over $1.3 billion, paid for temporary injuries, permanent injuries and the death of victims.

The personal cost of retained sponges

According to USA Today, retained sponges deliver serious consequences for patients. These consequences include:

  • Loss of body parts
  • Permanent pain
  • Digestive dysfunctions
  • Death
  • Multiple surgeries
  • Physical, mental and emotional scars

While most hospitals do not consider a retained sponge to be of great concern, a single sponge left behind often can cause great harm. Generally, it can be months or even years before the error is discovered and by then, the sponge has become enmeshed in the tissue around it. Often the only way to try to fix the problem is by going in and removing it and a good portion of whatever is around it.

Hospitals disregarding sponge tracking technology

Some hospitals, such as the Mayo Clinic, have employed the help of a sponge tracking technology after finding that manual sponge counts were not accurate. The sponges contain a small chip that sends an alert to notify surgical staff that it is still in the body. Since the installation of the system, not one patient has been the victim of a retained sponge.

Despite the success of sponge-tracking technologies, the majority of hospitals in the U.S. do not use them. Many cite budget issues but the technology only adds $10 to the cost of each surgery. Currently less than 600 hospitals use such a system.

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