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Does surgeon error result in retained guidewires in Maryland?

No matter where you are, whether here in Maryland or somewhere else in the United States, a medical emergency can cause panic, confusion and distraction. The truth of the matter is this type of confusion can also occur inside the operating room. When confusion takes place during surgery, it can lead to surgeon error. Researchers now say that the retention of guidewires used when placing central venous catheters is a preventable error that happens more often than it should.

A recent study reviewed reports from one hospital highlighting four different instances wherein patients had retained guidewires after surgery. Guidewires are thin wires used to aid in the placement of central venous catheters. These catheters are used for the administration of fluids or medication and for patient monitoring. Purportedly, all four of the individuals highlighted in the reports had undergone complex surgeries. During the surgeries, central venous catheters were placed and guidewires were used.

In each case, the presence of the guidewire was overlooked during postoperative x-rays. The guidewires, in at least some of the cases, went undetected for as many as two days. The potential contributing factor to the retained guidewires is believed to be distraction or confusion brought about by the patient's unstable condition during surgery. It is thought that guidewire retention is 100 percent preventable if proper routine precautions are taken.

The study revealed that all four of the patients highlighted in the reports became unstable during each of his or her respective procedures. During this time, the supervising doctors' attention was drawn away from overseeing proper protocol. In this study, it is speculated that interruptions and distractions directly affected the medical staff, resulting in a deviation from proper technique.

In any case, residents of Maryland who are facing surgery trust fully that presiding surgeons take the necessary precautions and follow proper protocol to ensure a successful surgical outcome. Unfortunately, surgeon error in the operating room does happen. For this reason, the law provides that patients who have been victimized by negligence of some form while undergoing surgery are eligible to seek compensation as recompense for the ordeal.

Source:, "Retention of guide wires used to place catheters should never occur," Darrell Hoemann, June 20, 2013

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