Medical Errors Persist Despite Precautions

DENVER, Oct. 19 (UPI) — Surgeons are still operating on the wrong patients or the wrong spot on the right patients despite systems meant to preclude such errors, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Philip F. Stahel of Denver Health Medical Center and the University of Colorado School of Medicine and colleagues analyzed data from a company that provides insurance liability coverage to 6,000 practicing physicians in Colorado.


Out of 27,370 clinician-reported adverse events from January 2002 to June 2008, 25 wrong-patient and 107 wrong-site procedures were identified. Five wrong-patient procedures and 38 wrong-site procedures resulted in significant harm to patients, and one patient died after a wrong-site procedure, Stahel says.

The study, published in the Archives of Surgery, found that errors in diagnosis contributed to 56 percent of wrong-patient cases and there were errors in communication to 100 percent of them.

In addition, 85 percent of wrong-site procedures involved errors in judgment and in 72 percent doctors didn’t take a “time-out.”

“The findings from the present study emphasize a continuing and concerning occurrence of wrong-site and wrong-patient procedures in the current era of the universal protocol, leading to frequent patient harm and rarely, patient death,” the study authors say in statement.

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