Three tips to avoid deadly errors during your next surgery

When you or someone you love is wheeled into an operating room, you want to believe it’s the safest place on earth.

An environment where a team of doctors and nurses is doing everything they can to make sure you come out alive.

But a shocking new study proves that there’s at least a 50 percent chance that a potentially serious drug mistake will be made during your operation.

I’m talking about an error that could jeopardize your recovery — or even cost you your life.

It’s a secret that the mainstream has known about for years. And if you don’t want to become the next victim, there are three steps you must take before ever agreeing to go under the knife.

 

To err is common
 

Dr. Karen Nanji knew the results would be ugly.

She’s an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General, one of the top-rated hospitals in the world. But she and her colleagues had seen how the frantic pace of surgery can lead to rushed decisions and plenty of overlooked details.

And mistakes that can mean the difference between life and death.

So in this first-ever effort to track surgical drug blunders, she and her team followed more than 270 patients through every stage, from prep through post-surgical care.

They found that nearly half of them suffered problems due to mishaps in drug labeling, wrong doses, and other medication slip-ups.

And if you have a 50-50 chance of getting the wrong drug — or too much of it — at Massachusetts General, you can only imagine just how serious the problem is at other hospitals.

Even worse, Nanji and her researchers found that nearly 80 percent of the mistakes made could and should have been prevented.

We’re not talking about simple human error here — we’re talking about outright negligence!

Keep in mind that the third leading cause of death in the U.S. — right behind heart disease and cancer — is medical mistakes. And lots of these deaths involve drugs incorrectly administered before, during or after surgery.

Of course, the last thing you want to do is add your name to those grim statistics. And crossing your fingers and hoping for the best just won’t cut it anymore. These days, every patient needs to be an involved, active member of his surgical team.

Before undergoing any surgery there are three important things you must do:

  1. The first step — and the most important one — is to question the need for your surgery. There have been studies on surgeries for everything from knee pain to certain types of cancer that found patients fared just as well (and sometimes better) when they skipped the operations. Always get a second opinion.
  2. Avoid hospitals with horrible safety records. Trust me, they don’t like to advertise this stuff — but there are some hospitals where goofing up is practically part of the mission statement. You can find out how your local hospital rates by visiting a website called Hospital Safety Score.
  3. Always ask and write down which medications will be administered during your surgery and exactly how much you’ll get. Then have a loved one follow up after the surgery to make sure there were no surprises.

Of course, we all know that not every surgery is planned. That’s why it’s important to have a spouse or other family member or friend assigned to ask these questions and make decisions for you during medical emergencies.

Sources:
“Disturbing new study finds medication errors in half of all surgeries” Robert J. Szczerba, October 27, 2015, Forbes, forbes.com

“Medication errors seen in half of all operations in study” Alan Mozes, October 25, 2015, HealthDay, consumer.healthday.com