June 10, 2011, ERIE, PA — Men’s Health recently published an article on avoiding injuries from hospital mistakes. In typical fashion, they almost jocularly observe that 98,000 Americans die every year from medical mistakes and more are injured. As they said, “Others survive their [hospital] stays but don’t walk out on their own two feet because one was –oops!– accidentally amputated.”
Sure, it’s all fun and games as long as it’s somebody else’s foot that was wrongly amputated.
Still, the article offers some basic and helpful tips to avoid the worst sort of hospital errors and those tips are worth reprinting here. To read the whole article (and to learn about an interesting hospital where health care professionals can practice on sophisticated dummies instead of live patients) click HERE .
Here are the tips from Men’s Health that will help you avoid being the next victim of a pointless medical error:
1. If You’re Having Surgery
* Ask about how many operations just like yours your surgeon has performed. Quantity matters when it comes to surgical skill. One study of gallbladder removal surgeries demonstrated that surgeons did not reach a “steady state of quality” until they’d done 50 gallbladder removals. You don’t want to be one of those first 49.
* Is your doctor board certified? Ask. If he/she is not then ask to speak to another surgeon who is.
* Can everyone tell their right from their left? This one really isn’t a joke. Wrong site surgery persists, despite the fact that this ought to be one of the most easily avoidable errors. Men’s Health recommends that you take a magic marker and write on your body, “cut here” or “this knee.” We think it may be even more effective to write on the other side of the body “Don’t Cut Here!” Men’s Health also recommends that you ask, just as you’re being wheeled into the O.R., “What operation am I here for?” If they give you the wrong answer, you’ve got to speak up loud and clear.
2. You’re Getting A Central Line
Intravenous medication administration is common and central lines are particularly troublesome, accounting for 20,000 fatal infections every year. Men’s Health recommends:
* Ask for the hospital’s central line infection rate. If it’s less than 1 in 1000, that’s pretty good. If it’s between 1and 3 in 1000, they can do better but it’s not horrible. if it’s above 3, go to another hospital.
* Ultrasound imaging increases accuracy and safety. Ask if they’re going to use it. Hospitals that rely on feel and experience have less ideal outcomes. Insist on the use of ultrasound imaging to guide placement of the line.
* Doctors and nurses should wash and put on sterile gloves and a mask before placing a central line. If they touch other things in the room, they should wash and glove up again. Insist on it. Also, don’t hesitate to object to bracelets, watches, long sleeves, dangling ties and other such items. These are bacterial breeding grounds.
* Make sure the line is in. Some drugs can be toxic to surrounding tissue. You should see blood in the syringe when the nurse draws back the plunger. Also, ask the nurse to run saline as a test before using the medication. If the asking around the injection site appears to bulge with fluid then the IV is not in correctly.
* Is the line still necessary? The longer the line is in place the greater your risk of infection. Ask your doctor regularly, “Are the benefits of the line still worth the risks?”
To be continued….check back tomorrow for tips when you’re in the E.R.; when you’re having a baby and when a parent is in the hospital.
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