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What is a 'never event' and how often do they occur?

Instances in which an incorrect surgical procedure is performed on a patient are referred to as "never events". They're coined as such as a way of emphasizing that they would have never happened if not for some serious safety lapses occurring along the way.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), surgical errors such as this happen far too often. One study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agency back in July, captured just how often never events happen among orthopedic surgeons.

In conducting a six-month analysis, AHRQ found that 59 percent of never events among orthopedics involved wrong side surgeries. At least 23 percent of all events took place on the right side of the body, but on the incorrect part. In at least 14 percent of all cases, the wrong procedure was performed altogether. In 5 percent of all cases, a surgery was performed on the wrong patient.

The AHRQ, in their report, also acknowledges that neurosurgeons are also highly likely to operate on the wrong site. They note that one of the more common errors that occurs is a neurosurgeon performing a procedure at the wrong level of the patient's spine other than what was intended.

It's not unheard of for surgeons in specialties like urology or gynecology to remove a patient's healthy body part in lieu of the diseased one as well. The AHRQ notes that one of the most appalling cases they've uncovered is a patient, with a similar last name to another, more critically ill patient, having a cardiovascular procedure performed on them.

Fortunately wrong-site surgeries are reported to occur in only one out of every 112,000 operations. If your own health or that of a loved one declined after being subjected to the wrong surgical procedure, then a Chicago medical malpractice attorney may advise you of your right to sue the hospital or doctor for negligence in your case.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-patient surgery," accessed Nov. 30, 2017

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