A new report says surgery-related claims over doctor errors are the second most commonly filed complaints related to medical malpractice.

The study, by insurer Coverys, examined five years of closed medical malpractice claims from 2014 to 2018 and found that surgical claims account for one-fourth of all cases.

Claims result from all phases of surgical procedures

Surgical mistakes trail diagnosis-related errors, which accounted for 32% of all cases, according to the study. Claims related to surgery cover all aspects, including decision-making up to and after surgery as well as the procedures themselves. The top three surgical specialties triggering lawsuits accounted for nearly half of all claims. They are:

  • 22%: General surgeries
  • 17%: Orthopedic surgeries
  • 8%: Neurosurgeries

Most claims are related to surgeons’ skills

Among the nearly 2,600 claims analyzed in the study, 9% resulted in patient deaths, and 29% caused significant permanent injuries. Most claims addressed alleged poor performance by the surgeon. Here is a breakdown of the complaints:

  • 39%: Lack of technical skill by the surgeon
  • 27%: Failure of clinical judgment and communication
  • 7%: Leaving a foreign object in the body
  • 4%: Performing an unnecessary procedure
  • 3%: Performing surgery on the wrong patient/site/side
  • 3%: Delaying surgery

Study authors offer recommendations

Researchers say vulnerabilities exist at each stage of the surgical process and they provided several steps to help improve patient outcomes. These include:

  • Before surgery, doctors should involve patients in all decision-making and ensure they understand the procedure
  • Surgeons should document all informed consent discussions, including the patient’s response
  • Surgeons and operating room staff need to remove all distractions, such as music, cellphones, visitors and limit non-essential conversation
  • Adopt a so-called “sterile cockpit” concept which comes from aviation, meaning prohibiting operating room staff from performing non-essential duties or activities

Medical mistakes continue to be a leading cause of death

A recent study by Johns Hopkins shows medical errors, behind heart disease and cancer, are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. The study claims more than 250,000 people die every year as a result, while other research says that number could be as high as 440,000.

If you are injured as a result of a medical error, consult an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who will protect your rights and understands the challenges of proving claims that can involve highly technical and complicated procedures.