The average American undergoes around nine surgical procedures in their lifetime, varying from the most basic surgeries to the most complex medical procedures. And each time they go under the knife, they are at risk for major consequences.

According to a study from Coverys, surgery is the second most common cause of medical malpractice claims in the United States, with about 25% of all claims related to surgical or procedural. Of those claims, the study suggests more than 75% claim the error was due to performance during the procedure.

Why are surgeries so risky?

In general, surgeries are high-risk for many patients because it involves significant care and communication to ensure the safety of the patient during the operation. The authors of the study identified specific vulnerabilities in the surgical process including:

  • Selecting the right surgeries for high-risk patients
  • Making sure the handing off between preoperative and operation room is sterile and careful
  • Communicating the expectations and instructions to the patient for the surgery
  • Ensuring the patient receives the proper medications during the operation
  • Reviewing the patient’s medical record consistently to ensure there are no unexpected responses

The main suggestion to squash these vulnerabilities was to establish a “sterile cockpit,” essentially you would prohibit certain staff members from the operation room during high-risk activities. In the hospital room, you wouldn’t allow additional staff during the procedure itself and avoid them after transitioning the patient in and out of the room.

It’s an interesting concept, but until it’s implemented and tested, there is always a risk for errors during surgery. Patients need to know when to act and possibly seek a medical malpractice suit themselves.