Surgery-related errors are the second leading cause of malpractice claims, according to a report from Coverys. The medical liability insurer analyzed all of its closed claims from 2014 to 2018 and discovered that surgery was involved in 25% of them. Indiana residents should know that only diagnosis-related claims were more frequent, making up 32% of them.

In all, there were 2,579 surgery-related claims. The errors would occur at all stages of the surgical process, from the decision-making process to the post-surgical care, but the majority (78%) were due to the surgeon’s performance during the procedure itself.

General surgery (22%), orthopedic surgery (17%) and neurosurgery (8%) were the fields where the most errors arose. Around 27% of the claims involved a failure in clinical judgment and/or communication. Seven percent involved a foreign object being left in a patient’s body while 4% alleged that the wrong procedure was performed and 3% alleged a harmful delay in surgery. In 29% of claims, the patient suffered significant, permanent injuries. In 9%, the patient died.

The way to reduce errors, the study’s authors claim, is to address the vulnerabilities that are found at each stage of the surgical process. For example, patients should be more involved in decision-making, and the OR should be free of conversations, visitors and other distractions.

Surgery-related errors can leave patients with temporary or permanent disabilities, not to mention the added financial burden. A medical malpractice claim may be pursued, but it may be wise for victims to consult an attorney before anything else. The attorney may request an inquiry with the local medical board and have an independent investigation mounted. Victims may leave all negotiations to their attorney and consider litigation if a fair settlement cannot be achieved.