Mistakes in Surgery More Common than You Think

Dr. Richard Besser reveals new study that shows many common errors caused in the ER.
2:09 | 12/20/12

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Transcript for Mistakes in Surgery More Common than You Think
And now, a major alert from doctors at one of americas leading medical schools. A new report from johns hopkins says more than 4,000 times a year, surgeons are making mistakes in the operating room that should never happen and can be stopped. Now. Abc's chief medical eveditor dr. Richard besser with advice for everyone tonight. Reporter: A surgical clamp left inside an abdomen. A scissor blade left near a pelvis. Even this one. An 18-inch retractor left behind. And surgical mistakes like the one that happened to lonnie. They operated on the wrong knee. I was under. I was helpless. Reporter: It happens a lot more than you might think. What we found is that about 40 times per week in the u.S., patients have a sponge or a towel left. 20 times a week, we operate on the wrong side of the body or the wrong part of the body. And 20 times we do the wrong operation. Reporter: Dr. Jeffrey port of new york hospital showed me what's supposed to happen before surgery even starts. We make a mark with our initials on the side of the surgery. Reporter: The surgeon initials the correct limb. Once inside the o.R., Everything stops and they hold up a checklist. What is the procedure? Reporter: Nurses should count the instruments and gauze sponges before and after surgery. And some hospitals use a new technology that dr. Port pioneered. A tiny tracking chip attached to each piece of gauze. Are surgeons taking this seriously? Very seriously. And rich besser is here right now. So, you walk into the hospital, what's the first thing you ask? What's the first thing you do? Reporter: You want to make sure your hospital is using this checklist and using this system. Surgeons call these type of errors never events, because they are all totally preventable. You want to make sure your doctor -- what about taking your own magic marker and, whether it's you or whether it's someone you are advocating for, mark it yourself. Reporter: Do that yourself. They should be doing that, too. And you want to make sure, before you are wheeled into that operating room, they know what they're doing and what part of the body they're doing it on. If you haven't seen a mark being made -- Reporter: Don't go into that operating room. Take action.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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