Some 45% of otolaryngologists who responded to a survey last summer and fall said a medical error had occurred in their practice in the previous six months, according to a report in the journal The Laryngoscope. About 37% of the errors caused major harm and 4% were fatal. The largest category of errors -- 19% of the total -- was technical mistakes during procedures, and 56% of those caused major injury or harm, the study said. Younger physicians were more likely than physicians over the age of 50 to report errors (about 60% vs. 40%, respectively).
The researchers said they believe the survey results underestimate the proportion of physicians encountering an error, suggesting that many physicians are not trained to recognize errors. "The probability of an otolaryngologist erring on any individual decision is miniscule," the authors said. "However, because we all make millions of medical decisions, we will all make many errors during our careers." The anonymous survey was completed by 466 physicians. The report is available to subscribers only. -- by Michael Romano