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3 tips that could help thwart medical mistakes

Surgical errors, medication mix-ups and other medical mistakes claim the lives of more than 250,000 people and injure millions more every year in the United States. According to an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, this likely amounts to the third leading cause of death in the country.

While many of the medical risks we face cannot be prevented as we lay helpless on the operating table or hospital bed, there are a few things patients can do to help stay safe, CNN reports. Here is a list of three common surgical errors and medical mistakes and ways to help avoid them:

Wrong procedure performed on wrong patient. Believe it or not, it is actually quite common for hospital staff to mix up patients or the procedures they are supposed to receive. This can result in the wrong part of the body being operated on, or the wrong body all together. Prevention tip: Make sure the hospital staff checks your entire name, date of birth and procedure you will be receiving before you go under the knife.

Surgical tools left inside of patient after operation. This is a less common medical mistake, but when it happens the results can be deadly as foreign objects left inside the body can lead to serious infection. Prevention tip: While there is no way to prevent this from happening on the front end, make sure you raise this concern to your doctor if you experience unexpected pain, fever or swelling after your procedure.

Patient given infection after care provider doesn’t wash hands. While hand washing seems like it would be an obvious first-step in medical care, many nurses and doctors simply forget or are in too big of a hurry to do it, which can lead to serious infection. Prevention tip: If there is not a sink in the room where you can watch your care providers wash up, ask them to make sure they have.

Source: CNN, “10 shocking medical mistakes,” John Bonifield, Nov. 5, 2012