1. Health

A Patient's Guide to Safer Surgery


Updated January 27, 2014

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Surgery takes away our control, but we can still take steps to stay safe.

Surgery takes away our control, but we can still take steps to stay safe.

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We've all heard stories about surgical mistakes. Surgical instruments, sponges, even needles are left inside a patient. Surgery is performed on the wrong patient. A wrong limb is amputated or the wrong kidney is removed. There are even incidences of patients catching fire while being cauterized (the intentional closing of an opening by burning). Surgical errors are legend.

Surgical errors are listed among the National Quality Forum's "never events," events that should never take place in a healthcare setting. According to the Joint Commission (the accreditation body for hospitals), wrong-site surgery mistakes alone account for more than 2,000 harmed patients each year in the United States. That number does not include infections that kill thousands more.

Many of these safety problems are out of the control of patients. For example, you have no control over an instrument being left inside you, and you don't control cauterizing equipment.

Nevertheless, there are some things patients can do to improve the chances that the surgery will be safe, preventing some surgical mistakes. Here are some articles to help you have more confidence in your surgery and your surgeon:

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