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Avoiding surgical errors: What you can do to help

Surgical errors can quickly cause a patient to suffer unnecessary pain and even to have to go through additional surgeries that wouldn't have been necessary. Sometimes, these errors end up leaving a patient with a disability, and other times the wrong body part or organ is operated on, rendering a healthy body part useless or damaging it unnecessarily.

Patients do have ways to help reduce the risk of these incidents occurring. Remember, no matter what you've heard about a doctor from your social circles, it's always important to compare medical providers. You need to know who has performed a surgery, how many times its been performed and the outcomes of those surgeries if possible. It's wonderful if there are people who can give a good review of the surgeon for you, but it's also telling if you hear negative stories about surgeries performed.

On the day of surgery, you may be nervous, but you can alleviate some of those fears by making sure the doctors and nurses know who you are, your allergies and why you're there. You could feel like it's overkill to tell each and every person your name, birth date and reason for surgery, but this communication can actually help prevent you from being confused with another patient or having the wrong body part marked.

In most cases, surgeons mark the body part where surgery will occur before you go under anesthesia. At that point, make sure everything appears where it should be. If you have questions, ask. It's better to catch an error before the surgery begins than to find out the wrong knee or elbow was operated on later.

These are just a few tips for avoiding surgical errors. By being persistent and speaking up, you may help prevent simple errors from taking place. If you're still injured, then you may decide to move forward with a medical malpractice claim.

Source: Patient Safety ASAP, "How to Avoid Surgical Errors," accessed April 18, 2017

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