Medical errors are made every day but when you’re sick and need surgery you have to place trust in your physician. The truth is that there are no guarantees; even a great doctor or nurse can have a bad day or make a mistake. It is hard to believe but 250,000 people are killed every year due to medical errors in the United States and millions more are injured. Behind heart disease and cancer, medical errors are the third largest cause of death in the United States.
There are some common medical errors that can lead to big problems and many of them can be prevented with a little effort by the patient.
Top 10 Medical Errors and How to Prevent Them:
1. Treating the Wrong Patient!
This common medical error is caused by staff failing to identify the patient before surgery, often as a result of a different patient with a similar name in the hospital at the same time. Clearly, receiving treatment or surgery for someone else’s medical condition is dangerous. Your best chance of prevention is to make sure that the hospital staff checks your entire name, date of birth and the barcode on your hospital wristband.
2. Leftover Operating Tools!
This surgical error is the stuff of nightmares; the medical staff fails to count or miscounts the pieces of equipment used inside a patient during an operation and literally sew them back up with a piece still inside. If you are having trouble recovering from surgery and have unexplained fever, pain or swelling you may want to ask for an x-ray to rule out equipment left inside.
3. Lost Patients!
This problem is most often associated with patients experiencing dementia. Dementia patients are prone to wandering off and can become trapped or lost and die from dehydration or hypothermia. You can help to protect your loved one by investing in a GPS tracking bracelet.
4. Con-Artist Doctors!
There are people out there posing as doctors when they are not. Being treated by someone not trained as a medical professional is clearly dangerous. Your best defense is to check your physician’s status online.
5. Long Waits in the ER!
We’ve all experienced the overcrowded emergency room and there is a serious risk that a patient will become sicker while they wait for care. If you are concerned about receiving timely care in a busy emergency room then your best offense is to call your doctor and have them contact the hospital on your behalf.
6. Air Bubbles in Blood!
When a patient’s chest isn’t sealed airtight after a chest tube is removed it can leave dangerous air bubbles in the blood. The consequences to this medical error are deadly; air bubbles get sucked into the wound and cut off blood supply to the patient’s lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain. If you are receiving a surgery with a central line tube you then ask how you should be positioned when the line is removed.
7. Operating on the Wrong Body Part!
There are a few things that can cause an operation on the wrong body part including an incorrect notation on a medical chart, a misunderstanding of the medical chart or surgical draping obscuring a mark that is meant to identify the area for surgery. Before you are put under, reaffirm the area in need of surgery with the nurse and doctor.
The spread of infection can occur pretty easily if doctors and nurses fail to wash their hands or sterilize operating equipment. Patients can die from infections incurred in hospital surgeries so it is worth making sure that nurses and doctors who handle you wash their hands first.
9. Mixed-up Tubes!
A simple visual mix-up between a chest tube and a feeding tube can mean medicine for the chest ends up in the stomach or vice versa. If you have multiple tubes going into your body, ask the nurse to trace each tube back to its origin.
10. Oops. You Woke up During Surgery!
Waking up during surgery is typically a caused by an under-dose of anesthesia. This bizarre situation can lead your brain to be awake while your muscles are frozen; some patients report feeling pokes and prods and some even feel pain. When you are planning for your surgery, make sure that you really need to be put to sleep or if a local anesthetic might work for your case.
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