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Top five medical blunders that could happen during surgery

By Mercy Asamba | Published Sat, March 3rd 2018 at 10:00, Updated March 3rd 2018 at 10:01 GMT +3
Kenyatta National Hospital where a neurosurgeon has conducted a brain surgery on the wrong patient. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]


The Kenyatta National Hospital has taken the biscuit for medical blundering but it is not alone.

Doctors across the world have subjected patients to horrific mistakes that happen every day in hospitals around the world. Most people have heard horror stories of medical instruments being left in the body and surgery on wrong patients.

The Kenyatta National Hospital blunder caused uproar on Thursday night after a doctor conducted a brain surgery on a wrong patient.

The mix-up was between two patients who arrived at the facility unconscious on Sunday. One needed head surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain while the other only required nursing and medication to heal a trauma swelling in his head.

KNH’s management has since issued a statement apologising for the grave mistake, saying that that they took action following the incident, this in line with the hospital's procedures.

Across the world, there are many other medical and surgical errors that still happen to patients, often causing severe injuries or death.

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Air Embolisms

Air Embolisms occurs when air bubbles enter the bloodstream during surgery causing a blockage in the patient’s circulatory system.

This usually happens when the doctor fails to seal airtight the hole in a patient's chest after a chest tube is removed.

It then causes blockage in the lungs due to cut-off of blood supply to the major body organs which may lead to death.

These air bubbles travel to the patient’s brain, heart or lungs and may cause a heart attack, stroke, or respiratory failure.

Air bubbles are rather rare.

Operation on the wrong body part

Doctors operating on the wrong body parts such as amputating the wrong appendage or removing the wrong organs are some of the common surgical mistakes.

Such surgical errors still occur even with precautions, such as physically marking the body before surgery.

In some instances a patient's chart is incorrect or a surgeon may miss some details, or surgical draping obscures marks that indicate the correct area to be operated on.

Waking up during surgery

An under-dose of anesthesia may lead to a patient waking up during surgery.

According to the study published in the journal Anaesthesia in which researchers surveyed more than 3 million patients who received general anesthesia in the United Kingdom and Ireland roughly one in 19,600 patients "accidentally" wakes up during surgery.

This may cause devastating psychological effects on patients who wake up during the operation as they feel pain in every poke and cut.

Surgical souvenirs

Surgical tools get left inside the body when surgical staff miscount equipment used on a patient during an operation.

Sponges, gloves, scalpels, scissors, towels, needles are among surgical equipment that could be left inside the patient’s body.

Retained surgical instruments in the body after a surgery can cause a number of serious health issues and may even lead to death.

This is a mistake that could be avoided with the implementation of extra safety precautions.

Some patients may opt to have less invasive surgical procedures such as laparoscopy, an operation in the abdomen or pelvis through small incisions with the aid of a camera, whenever possible

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