Concurrent surgeries are a common but little talked about practice

This article looks at concurrent surgeries, a practice that critics say puts patients at risk.

Most people who are booked for an operation assume that their attending surgeon will be in the operating room for the entirety of their surgery. However, according to U.S. News & World Report, many surgeons may be performing two surgeries at once, a practice that requires them to leave the OR often for extended periods of time. While the practice is widespread, critics say it puts patients at risk of surgical errors and is being done more for profit than for the best interests of patients.

How common are concurrent surgeries?

The fact is, nobody knows for sure how common concurrent surgeries are. However, as CBS News reports, the Senate Finance Committee, which is investigating the practice, surveyed 20 teaching hospitals and found that 33 percent of their surgeries were double-booked. In some cases, individual surgeons reported having close to half of all their surgeries double-booked.

Concurrent surgeries are especially common at teaching hospitals, where an attending surgeon will often leave the operating room to work on another surgery booked at the same time. A trainee is then left to complete what are deemed non-critical parts of the procedure when the attending surgeon is not in the room.

Despite being so widespread, double-booked surgeries are not widely known about by the general public, which is perhaps why they have managed to go on for so long. Many patients whose surgeries are double-booked with another patient's surgery are not adequately made aware of the fact. One Harvard study found that only 5 percent of people have heard of concurrent surgeries and just 31 percent supported the practice.

Patients' safety and rights compromised

There are a number of problems with concurrent surgeries. While hospitals defend the practice, saying it allows trainees to gain valuable experience while allowing attending surgeons to see more patients, critics say that it is performed largely so that hospitals can make more money by performing as many operations as possible. While hospitals say that the attending surgeon only leaves the OR during "noncritical" parts of the surgery, even during these noncritical parts something can go wrong. A delay getting the attending surgeon back to the OR can seriously imperil the patient's safety.

Furthermore, many patients only find out that their operation was double-booked after the fact when something has gone wrong. The lack of adequate disclosure, critics say, deprives patients of their right to give informed con sent.

Medical malpractice law

Patients who have been hurt because of the negligence or mistake of a surgeon or other healthcare professional should contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately. Patients who are the victims of potential medical malpractice often have the right to pursue compensation. That compensation can help them cover various expenses, including for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and treatment.