Patients who undergo relatively common surgeries face a greater risk of complications — and even death — when they choose a hospital that does not regularly perform the procedure. This is because surgical teams at low-volume hospitals basically do not get enough practice to maintain an adequate skill level.

When it comes to safer surgical outcomes, patients should look to larger-volume hospitals, even if it means traveling a longer distance to get there, according to a U.S. News & World Report analysis.

The analysis examined five common medical procedures, including heart bypass surgery and hip and knee replacements. The evaluation showed that as many as 11,000 deaths may have been prevented between 2010 and 2012 if patients had undergone procedures at higher-volume, rather than lower-volume, hospitals.

At a 25-bed hospital in Colorado, for example, the risk of death for a knee replacement was 24 times the national average. At a 316-bed facility in New Jersey, the death risk for heart-bypass patients was four times the national average.

The risk of death was even higher — double the national average — for knee-replacement patients at ultra-low volume hospitals (those that treated less than 25 Medicare inpatients from 2010 through 2012 for nearly 20 common procedures and conditions). These patients also had a 25 percent higher rate of complications after being discharged.

The analysis further revealed that if a full range of common surgeries and medical conditions had been evaluated, tens of thousands of deaths might have been avoided, situations that may give rise to claims based on surgical errors, hospital or nursing negligence, or other types of medical malpractice.

The problem, however, is compounded by the fact that few surgical patients ask how many similar procedures a hospital has performed. U.S. News suggests that patients ask questions such as:

  • How many of a specific procedure does the surgeon perform in a year?
  • How many of a certain procedure does the hospital perform in a year?
  • What is the hospital’s surgical infection rate?
  • What is the doctor’s infection rate for that particular procedure?

If you or a loved one has been injured by the actions or inaction of a hospital or health care provider, you need a skilled and experienced lawyer to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group today to discuss your case.