Surgical Equipment Failure - Medical Negligence Lawyers
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Surgical Equipment Failure - Medical Negligence
Equipment failure in the operating room is very common. In fact, it is estimated that about one fifth of all medical errors in the OR is due to an equipment-related error. Errors can happen in all kinds of operating room equipment. The most commonly used equipment in the OR includes cautery equipment, which is used to stop bleeding. If it is too heavy on the tissue, it can cause a large area of burned flesh. When it is weak, it can cause prolonged bleeding in the tissues.
Another commonly used piece of equipment is endoscopy equipment. Certainly, the camera can fail resulting in the need to do a larger open surgery because the camera is necessary for visualization of the interior of the structure being looked at. The same holds true if the light in the endoscope fails. The surgeon cannot see if there is no lighted field.
There can be a failure of endoscopy tools while they’re in the individual receiving surgery. This can be dangerous because it can interfere with a partially-done surgery. An open surgery might be necessary if a tool fails in surgery.
In one study the researchers looked for adverse events in the operating room and excluded those situations that did not include equipment failures. There were twenty eight studies included in the main study. In the retrospective study, a total of 19.3 percent of errors were found to be due to equipment or technology errors.
Prospective evaluations reported more errors than self-report assessments with 12.4 percent versus 0.4 percent in self-reported studies. There were more equipment failures in facilities that had a lot of failures and errors overall. In eight studies looked at, the problem was a lack of equipment availability. This accounted for 37.7 percent of errors, while failing to configure the equipment properly accounted for 43.4 percent of cases. A direct malfunction, on the other hand, accounted for about 33 percent of equipment failures.
Were these equipment failures minor or severe? There were four studies that looked into the severity of these equipment failures. In these studies 21 percent of all equipment failures were considered major error. Among errors, about 21 percent of problems were due to equipment problems, 8 percent were due to errors in communication and 13 percent were due to technical failures. All of these failures were considered major.
Six studies looked at the operation type and compared cardiac surgery with general surgery. There were higher rates in cardiac surgery versus general surgery. This could be more dangerous as cardiac patients are considered sicker than regular surgery patients.
A total of six studies evaluated the effects of implementing ways to reduce equipment failure rate. They were able to reduce the error rate by 38 percent, with a lessening of the equipment failure rate by about 48.6 percent. Studies showed that a simple equipment check before surgery lowered the equipment error rate by 61 percent. Checklists used before surgery had the greatest effect on reducing equipment failure.
Another study had as its objective to look at the incidence of failure of equipment in a gynaecological endoscopy program. The study was done at a single place for a total of four months. The study included 62 laparoscopies, 51 operative hysteroscopies and three studies which were evaluation of fertility. The functions and malfunctions were divided into fluids and light, imaging, the electrical circuit and surgical instruments.
At least one error caused by equipment failure was found in 39 percent of operative procedures, 37 percent of hysteroscopies and 42 percent of laparoscopies. The various factors included human error, a loss of operative time and potential consequences. Fluid, light and gas problems happened in 36 percent of the time, surgical instruments failed in 29 percent of the time and the electric circuit failed in 22 percent of cases. The biggest thing doctors were worried about was the bipolar forceps and cables in laparoscopy cases and the assembly of small parts in the hysteroscopy. Personnel were at fault in nursing in 72 percent of cases and in surgeons in 12 percent of cases. Both were felt to be at fault in 16 percent of cases.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here