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A Surgeon's Confession Helps to Unmask New York Surgical Errors

Confession, the saying goes, is good for the soul. But it's not very often that a practicing surgeon publishes an account detailing operating room mishaps and miscommunications - the types of things that cause surgical errors.

That is what has happened, however, in a new book called Confessions of a Surgeon. The author is a doctor named Paul A. Ruggieri.

In an excerpt published recently in The Wall Street Journal, Ruggieri recounts how he threw a defective stapling device against the wall during an operation when it failed to work during an operation on a patient's colon.

Defective devices may not be within a hospital's control. But according to Ruggieri, there is much that hospitals should be doing to improve surgical safety.

For example, hospitals could keep track of how much blood is lost during surgery. They could record this data and use it to address the problem of surgeons whose patients tend to lose too much blood, putting them at risk of complications.

Hospitals could also do a better job of assessing medical history before the surgery. Doing this would result in more effective treatment for those with conditions such as hypertension or heart disease.

Patients with conditions like these would have fewer complications, on the whole, if medical staff paid proper attention to medical history before wheeling people into the operating room.

Dr. Paul Ruggieri practices in Cleveland, not New York City. But the problems he unmasks are just as present in Queens or elsewhere in New York as they are in Ohio.

Source: "Secrets of the Operating Room," Wall Street Journal, 12-31-11

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