Each year, millions of Americans undergo surgery. When we are “under the knife”, we expect to have the surgeon’s full attention. Little do we know that our surgeon may be performing another operation at the same time.
“The pressure to be more efficient and treat more patients can lead surgeons to schedule procedures in more than one operating room at a time.” (StatNews.com)
“Overlapping surgery refers to operations performed by the same primary surgeon such that the start of one surgery overlaps with the end of another. A qualified practitioner finishes noncritical aspects of the first operation while the primary surgeon moves to the next operation.” (JAMANetwork.com)
New research shows that overlapping surgeries is generally safe; however, there are some groups for which this is not the case.
Research found that there was a small increase of complications and even death for overlapping surgeries involving coronary artery bypass grafting and for high-risk patients. Small errors in care could be catastrophic for these groups, causing infections, pneumonia, heart attack, or death.
Bobby Jenks, former Red Sox pitcher settled a claim for $5.1 million after a surgeon caused him a career-ending spine injury, operating on his back and overseeing another operation simultaneously.
Jenks had pitched 19 games before hurting his back in June of 2011.
Dr. Kirkham Wood recommended spinal decompression surgery for Jenks, in hopes of getting him back on the mound again.
The three-hour surgery appeared to have gone well initially. But two weeks post-surgery, Jenks suffered a dural sac tear and leaked spinal fluid. Per discharge instructions, Jenks left messages for Dr. Wood, but never got a return call.
In pain, Jenks went to another surgeon, who repaired the tear, and said that Wood had left a bony spicule which caused the tear.
Jenks had already filed suit when he found out that Dr. Wood had been overseeing another surgery during his operation. Dr. Wood had been sued twice before by patients who had serious complications due to him juggling simultaneous surgeries
Jenks said, “Never picking up a baseball again is absolutely devastating…I was living the dream, and it was taken away from me.”(BostonGlobe.com)
Surgeons must take responsibility and not only make sure both patients are informed when performing overlapping surgeries, but should avoid overlapping surgeries altogether when there is a possibility that the practice could be unsafe.
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