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Protocols designed to reduce the number of surgical errors

When people in New York receive word from their health care provider that they need to get surgery, the news is often met with angst about what will happen and what recovery will be like. The outcome of any surgery can be even more terrifying when a surgical error occurs. When patients are active participants in their health care and take a hands-on approach to coordinating their treatment, they can be much more confident in their safety and well-being during a surgical procedure. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, surgical errors are almost entirely avoidable with good communication and vigilance to patient safety. However, in a surprising fact, errors still happen far too often leaving patients in worsened health than before. Some of the most common surgical errors include the following:

  • Surgeons performing an incorrect procedure from the one that was discussed.
  • Surgeons performing a surgery on the wrong body part.
  • Surgeons mixing up their patient files and performing surgery on the incorrect patient.

 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that common surgical errors can be avoided when protocols are put into place to protect patients and guarantee their safety. One suggestion is for the surgical team to have a "time-out" before the surgery occurs. This period of time can be used to clarify what will happen during the surgery and who will be responsible for what. Another suggestion is to mark the surgical site clearly to avoid getting mixed up or becoming confused during the procedure. Verification procedures preceding any surgery are another helpful tool to use in providing written clarification of what will happen during the surgery.  

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