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The Dangers of Double-Booked Surgeries

Surgeons operating in a surgery room.

In the United States, medical malpractice is defined as negligence by act or omission by a healthcare provider in which the care provided deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient, with most cases involving medical error.

In the operating room, there are many opportunities for errors to be made due to the complex nature of surgeries. Surgical errors can have devastating consequences, from performing the wrong procedure to leaving foreign objects inside the patient. However, a less often spoken cause for medical malpractice in the operating room is double-booked surgeries.

When a Surgeon Double-Books Surgeries

In the modern age of medicine, it is not uncommon for surgeons to juggle multiple surgeries at once. Also called running two rooms, double-booked surgeries may involve coordinating with a team of surgeons in different rooms or even performing surgery in two rooms simultaneously. While this type of multitasking can have benefits, it also carries risks.

Risk of Infection

When a surgeon is running two rooms, there is an increased risk of infection for patients. This can be due to:

  • The surgeon not having enough time to properly sterilize their hands and equipment between patients.
  • Cross-contamination as the surgeon is moving between rooms.

If a patient develops an infection after surgery, however, it can be difficult to determine whether the infection was caused by the surgeon running two rooms.

Surgeon Could Become Distracted

When performing double-booked surgeries, the surgeon would need to divide his or her attention between the two rooms, which could lead to important details being overlooked. In addition, multitasking has been shown to increase stress levels, which could also impair the surgeon's performance.

Potential Mix-Up of Supplies and Instruments

Mix-ups of supplies and instruments are more likely to happen when a surgeon is working in two rooms. This could result in the wrong medication being given to a patient or the wrong procedure being performed.

Exhaustion or Burnout

A surgeon who runs two rooms is at a higher risk for exhaustion. In one room, the surgeon may be performing a surgery that requires a great deal of concentration. Meanwhile, another surgery may be underway that is not as demanding in the other room. The surgeon may feel pulled in two directions and may not be able to give each surgery the attention it deserves. This could lead to errors being made or corners being cut.

Examples in Recent Years

In Massachusetts, a surgeon acted as a whistle-blower to shine a light on the practice of double-booking surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital. In one instance, a patient with a degenerative spine condition was left paralyzed after his surgeon performed a seven-hour surgery while performing another surgery in a separate room. The patient alleges he was never informed that his surgeon would be dividing his time between rooms.

A report from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee referred to a survey performed amongst 20 teaching hospitals where as much as 33 percent of all surgeries within a 15-month span were double-booked or run concurrently.

The Real Reason for Double-Booked Surgeries

While the "benefits" of a surgeon running two rooms are said by proponents to be an increase in efficiency, productivity, and potential to treat more patients, the primary reason is lower costs for the surgical facility. Hospitals are increasingly allowing surgeons to run two rooms because it cuts down on costs. The risks, however, may far outweigh the benefits, as patients are putting their life into the hands of another.

Were You a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

At Tate Law Group, LLC, our medical malpractice attorneys have a wealth of experience fighting for the rights of patients who have been injured due to negligence. We understand the complex legal landscape surrounding medical malpractice claims and know how to navigate the often-times daunting process of filing a claim. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve through a settlement or trial verdict.

If you have been injured and are suffering from the effects of medical malpractice, call us today at (912) 234-3030 to schedule a free consultation.