What are surgical never events, and how often do they occur?

by | Jul 14, 2021 | Medical malpractice

Medical mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are far more severe than others. Mistakes made during surgery, for example, are often far more dangerous than a mistake during a basic annual physical exam.  

A surgical error could involve just a tremor of the hands and a nick of the blade. They could also involve a major oversight that is 100% preventable, called a never event. Never events in surgery can take multiple forms, and they occur more frequently than you might expect.

What are the three most common number of events in surgical settings? 

Three surgical mistakes are such major mistakes that regulatory agencies can definitively say that these errors should never occur. Each of these mistakes could be life-threatening for a patient and could impact their recovery and long-term prognosis. 

One of the most notorious never events is the object left behind in the patient. Surgical sponges or even metal tools get closed into an incision at the end of a procedure. The two other major never events involve a surgeon performing the wrong procedure on a person or the right procedure on the wrong side of the body or body part.

How often do never events occur? 

Despite the name implying they should never happen, statistical estimates indicate that every hospital will have another event roughly every 10 years. On a broader scale, approximately one in every 112,000 surgeries results in and never events negatively affecting the patient. Understanding the risks involved can help you better respond to a surgical mistake after a procedure on you or a member of your family.