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51 percent of post-surgery errors result in problems for patients

Having to go through surgery is scary enough. There's the prospect of being put under and the fear of something going wrong in the operating room and afterwards during healing. And while these fears are natural enough, a recent study found patients really do have a justifiable reason to worry as post-surgery errors are rather common.

The study, which was published in the Annals of Surgery, monitored patients over the course of two years at an intestinal surgery center. During this time period, researchers found 352 mistakes. Of those mistakes, 256 were for what hospital safety researchers refer to as "process failures."

When looking at what caused many of these mistakes, communication failures between medical staff and a delay in assessing or treating a patient were some of the most common.

In one case, a patient was supposed to be administered a certain medication at 6 p.m. However, after getting out of surgery at 5 p.m., the patient wasn't administered the medication until 11 p.m.

In another case, the surgical team at the center never received the update that a patient's scan showed an issue.

In general, these types of errors can lead to patient harm or an extended stay for patients. In fact, the same study found 51 percent of the errors led to issues for the patients.

Dr. Phillip Stahel, who specializes in patient safety, said to try and combat errors, hospitals need to have checklists and read-backs. The checklist is a way to make sure nothing was overlooked. The read-backs strengthen communication and understandability as one staff member repeats the instructions of a clinician to make sure everything makes sense.


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