Rosemont, IL – Recent stories have circulated in the media about surgical errors, pointing to data from 6,000 physicians in Colorado this week. Numbers cited in that study showed that orthopaedic surgery is the second highest in making mistakes – with a total of 22. 4 percent of cases causing a surgical error. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) have been working together for years on ways to reduce medical error and keep patients safe.
“While even one error is too many, we do not want the numbers cited in this study to be taken out of context and drive fear in any patient,” said orthopaedic surgeon Shepard Hurwitz, MD, and Executive Director of the ABOS. Each year, the ABOS collects national data on each orthopaedic surgeon who applies for certification and re-certification. As part of the requirement, they need to submit case histories. Those case histories are then used to extrapolate data.
“Over a period of twelve years, the ABOS has collected national data on more than one million orthopaedic surgeries, and 71 of them included a wrong-site surgery,” stated Dr. Hurwitz. “Any number more than one means a mistake occurred, however 71 out of one million is a very low percentage of incidence. Even so, we continue together to work toward improvement.”
The Patient-Safety Committee of the AAOS has long led the crucial effort toward keeping patients safe. From an Academy-sponsored, Sign Your Site” campaign in 1997 to a Patient Safety Summit, in the works for Fall 2011, the Academy is at the forefront in creating innovative ways to lower the risks of surgical error in the OR. In fact, the Sign Your Site program was launched four years before the Universal Protocol was issued from the Joint Commission.
“Human beings operate, therefore human error will never be eliminated. But, we believe wrong-site surgery stats can be reduced with scientifically-proven safety procedures, which is why we are developing these procedures, using them and testing their effects. Ultimately, the number one safety parameter is a surgeon who is paying complete attention – so we want our processes to enhance his or her process, not further distract from it,” stated Jeffrey Anglen, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and member of the AAOS Patient Safety Committee.
How can patients who contemplate surgery stay safe? Dr. Hurwitz and Dr. Anglen suggest patients and family members be their own advocate and take part in the confirmation of what body part will be operated on and what procedure will be performed, and to demand clarification if questions or concerns arise.
AAOS Advisory Statement on Wrong-Site Surgeries
Joint Commission’s Universal Protocol
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: With more than 35,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (www.aaos.org or www.orthoinfo.org) is the premier not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals, champions the interests of patients and advances the highest quality musculoskeletal health. An orthopaedic surgeon is a physician who treats the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. Follow the conversation at www.facebook.com/AAOS1 or www.twitter.com/AAOS1. The AAOS Patient Safety Summit is slated for October 2011, with the objective of identifying opportunities for lessening these surgical error incidents before a patient gets into the OR and in prep of a surgery and during the surgery.
The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, Inc. functions to serve the best interests of the public and of the medical profession by establishing educational standards for orthopaedic residents and by evaluating the initial and continuing qualifications and knowledge of orthopaedic surgeons. For more information, visit www.abos.org
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