By James Paladino/ ( | First Posted: Dec 21, 2012 01:16 AM EST

Eross, the leading neurosurgeon, works on the skull during a brain surgery at the National Neurology Institute in Budapest (Photo : Reuters)

Nothing makes a hospital patient more anxious than the thought of their surgeon performing the wrong operation, or waking up with a tool stitched inside their body, but John Hopkins University researchers estimate that 4,082 preventable "never events" occur during operations every year in the United States (via ABC News).  

The study, published in the journal Science, notes that 9,744 paid malpractice settlements took place between 1990 and 2010, costing practitioners $1.3 billion.

New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Port notes that "Surgeons are the captain of the ship, but it's a team effort," attributing the phenomenon with human error.

According to the researchers, the mortality rate of never events was 6.6 percent, permanent injury was 32.9 percent, and temporary injury was 59.2 percent.

"It's a rare event but it's still an event that is entirely preventable," says lead investigator of the study Dr. Martin Makary.

Dr. Winta T. Mehtsun of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine adds, "Although the data we utilized captured surgical never events resulting in malpractice claims, many do not reach legal process and are then only voluntarily disclosed, with little coordination among reporting bodies."

Despite the results of the study, Dr. Sonali Desai of the Brigham and Women's Hospital assures that "There have been a lot of efforts over the past several years to make significant changes in patient care."

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