Research study examines ways to prevent surgical errors

Arizona residents who need surgery might eventually do so in safer conditions if techniques used in a Johns Hopkins study are adopted and used widely. The study examined surgical errors and found that while a preventative checklist was one helpful way to prevent accidents, surgeons also benefited from feedback about their errors. The results were published in a medical journal in June.

According to one of the study authors, surgeons’ mastery is generally measured by volume, but this does not give any information about the accuracy and precision of a surgeon’s work. The Johns Hopkins study found that when surgical residents had the opportunity to work on cadavers and to receive feedback on their work, their performance improved.

The study used 23 surgical residents who were supervised by three orthopedic specialists. They performed shoulder surgeries using three different approaches. Specialists graded them with a modified version of a popular checklist called the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills, a Global Rating Scale and a system of pass/fail. The study found the system gave feedback that was unambiguous and objective. A serious error, such as severing a blood vessel, resulted in an automatic fail. However, the study found that even these methods did not inform residents enough about their mistakes, and researchers said additional steps were needed.

This lack of oversight regarding surgeons’ procedures may result in a patient being harmed, and serious surgical errors happen each year that might range from wrong-site surgery to leaving instruments behind in a patient. Other surgery-related errors that might occur include wrongly calculating a patient’s anesthesia needs or failing to recognize a patient’s allergy to a medication. A person who has been harmed by such a mistake might want to discuss the situation with a medical malpractice attorney to see if any recourse is available.