New software can reduce the risk of surgical error and never events

New technology can reduce the risk of never events, like operations on the wrong surgical site.

New software developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins is designed to assist surgeons during spinal surgery and reduce in the risk of surgical errors. The technology provides guidance to better ensure the correct surgical procedure is completed. Since the spine is composed of repeating vertebrae that have similar appearances, a surgeon could complete a procedure on the wrong vertebrae. A professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins told a reporter with Medical Express, an online medical news publication, that spinal surgery on the wrong portion of the spine is "never meant to happen." However, a review of data throughout the country shows that these "never events" happen at least four times per week.

Use of this software could reduce the risk of these never events. Use of the program generally requires an additional preoperative CT scan. This scan is then aligned with a 2-D X-ray image that is conducted during the surgical procedure. The software is called LevelCheck, and it allows surgeons to superimpose their surgical planning information on the CT scan.

More on never events

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes that the term "never event" was coined in 2001 by a medical quality expert. The term was used to define "particularly shocking medical errors" like wrong-site surgery.

The most recent data from the agency, from 2009, states that there were over 6,000 reports of never events during the year. 867 of the reported events were wrong-site surgeries, 710 complications either in the operating room or immediately following the operation, 536 delays in treatment, 526 medication errors and 406 patient falls reported, all of which were so egregious that they should never happen in a hospital setting.

Procedures that fall within the category of surgical never events include:

  • Surgical procedure completed on the wrong body part.
  • Surgical procedure completed on the wrong patient.
  • Retention of a foreign object, like a scalpel or surgical sponge, in the patient after completion of the procedure.

These are just a few of the never events that can occur. Additional examples include improper discharge of a patient, use of contaminated drugs or devices and medication errors. Whenever these events lead to serious injury or death, compensation is likely available to the victim and the victim's family.

Remedies available to victims

Those who are injured in these situations are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced surgical error attorney. This legal professional will review your case and work to better ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Compensation that can help cover the cost of additional medical bills, rehabilitation and lost wages as well as potential pain and suffering awards.

Keywords: medical malpractice surgical error