Malpractice News

August 7, 2013

1 in 4 operating room errors technology-related

When you head to the hospital for an operation, you’d like to think that having a knowledgeable, experienced doctor will give you the best guarantee of a positive outcome of your surgery. However, a new study with worrisome implications has found that 1 in 4 operating room errors are related to technological or equipment issues. But, the study also says half of these errors could be prevented with the use of preoperative surgical checklists. 

Study authors looked at 28 studies covering operating room errors and discovered “technology/equipment issues were cited in about 15 percent of malpractice claims. An average of 2.4 errors occurred in each procedure, and technology/equipment issues accounted for 23.5 percent of these errors.”

In each case, there were a variety of different technological problems that occurred.  In 43 percent of cases, the “configuration or settings of a device/machine” were cited as the source of the problem. In 37 percent of cases the “availability of a device/machine” was the issue, and in a third of the cases the error cited was “the device/machine wasn’t working properly.” 

Four of the analyzed studies classified 20 percent of the errors as major, and of these major errors, equipment failure accounted for a fifth of the identified problems. The next most common cause was technical failures (13 percent) and then communication (8 percent). Certain surgeries rely more on technology than others, and these obviously are more prone to technological errors than are other surgeries.

Three of the studies showed that pre-operation checklists can halve the error rate. Colin Bicknell from Imperial College London, and other study authors suggested “a generic equipment checklist should become routine practice and be included in the current World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist. These checklists will become more necessary as technology and procedures become more complicated. These days, “research suggests that medical errors affect up to 16 percent of hospital patients and that about half of these errors are associated with surgery,” said one news release.


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