Technical errors and complications in orthopaedic trauma surgery

M.A. Meeuwis, M.A.C. de Jongh, J.A. Roukema, F.H.W.M. van der Heijden, M. H. J. Verhofstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Adverse events and associated morbidity and subsequent costs receive increasing attention in clinical practice and research. As opposed to complications, errors are not described or analysed in literature on fracture surgery. The aim of this study was to provide a description of errors and complications in relation to fracture surgery, as well as the circumstances in which they occur, for example urgency, type of surgeon, and type of fracture.
All errors and complications were recorded prospectively in our hospital’s complication registry, which forms an integral part of the electronic medical patient file. All recorded errors and complications in the complication registry linked to fracture surgery between 1 January, 2000 and 31 December, 2010 were analysed.
During the study period 4310 osteosynthesis procedures were performed. In 78 (1.8 %) procedures an error in osteosynthesis was registered. The number of procedures in which an error occurred was significantly lower (OR = 0.53; p = 0.007) when an orthopaedic trauma surgeon was part of the operating team. Of all 3758 patients who were admitted to the surgical ward for osteosynthesis, 745 (19.8 %) had one or more postoperative complications registered. There was no significant difference in the number of postoperative complications after osteosynthesis procedures in which an orthopaedic trauma surgeon was present or absent (16.7 vs. 19.1 %; p = 0.088; OR 0.85).
In the present study the true error rate after osteosynthesis may have been higher than the rate found. Errors that had no significant consequence may be especially susceptible to underreporting.
The present study suggests that an osteosynthesis procedure performed by or actively assisted by an orthopaedic trauma surgeon decreases the probability of an error in osteosynthesis. Apart from errors in osteosynthesis, the involvement of an orthopaedic trauma surgeon did not lead to a significant reduction in the number of postoperative complications.
Keywords: Fractures, Surgical error, Complications
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-193
JournalArchives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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