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After surgery, medical errors common, study finds

Errors by doctors and nurses who are treating patients in Atlanta as they recover from surgery are all too common, according to a new study. In fact, patients may be subject to multiple errors during their recuperation and could even suffer harm.

Researchers in the U.K. tracked 50 patients who had were operated on at a particular "large gastro-intestinal surgery center" between 2008 and 2010. The patients underwent non-emergency but serious operations -- mostly for some form of cancer -- that required an average hospital stay of 11 days. According to researchers, staff committed a total of 352 medical errors on those patients.

While some of those errors were minor, the majority harmed the patient in some way. For instance, one patient did not receive a medication until six hours after he or she was supposed to. In another case, a revised analysis of a scan was not delivered to a surgical team.

The study said that the vast majority of the medical mistakes were "process failures," or breakdowns in communication between staff members that lead to delays in treatment or diagnosis. And 85 percent of the process errors were preventable through tactics such as written checklists and having staff repeat the instructions they are given by others to ensure they understood correctly. Surgical checklists have been shown to reduce blood clots caused by surgical errors by 50 percent.

Though this study was relatively small and from out of the country, it could have implications for post-operative care in Atlanta as well. No patient should have to endure injury from preventable medical mistakes.

Source: Reuters, "Study finds errors in post-surgery care are common," Kerry Grens, Oct. 2, 2012

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