Massachusetts Hospitals Report More Surgical Errors

In spite of a 10 year campaign to reduce “never events” such as surgical errors, hospitals in Massachusetts are reporting an increase in surgical errors such as anesthesia injected into the wrong leg, a guidewire left inside a patient’s vein, and a catheter threaded into a patient who didn’t need one. Some industry experts believe the culprit may be the trend toward surgical procedures taking place in outpatient clinics and physician offices. According to the Boston Globe, “According to state data reviewed by the Globe, hospitals are projected to report 94 missteps during surgery and invasive procedures in 2012 when complete results are tallied, an increase of 65 percent over 2011. The 2012 projections are based on hospital reports for the first half of the year. The number of mistakes during surgery and invasive procedures is the highest since the state began collecting data five years ago, even as errors of all types, including preventable patient falls and bed sores, have declined. . .The largest hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, which do the most procedures, tended to report the greatest number of mistakes, many of them occurring outside their operating rooms. The Brigham reported 14 surgical errors during the 18-month period, 10 of them objects left inside patients, and 4 procedures on wrong body parts, including one case in which anesthesia was injected into the wrong leg of a patient. None of the patients suffered long-lasting harm, said Janet Barnes, executive director of compliance at the Brigham.”