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You may think that doctors don’t make many errors, but research has shown that the opposite is true. In fact, doctors in the United States make errors surprisingly often.

These errors range in severity, but they can be anything from misdiagnosing the common cold to leaving a scalpel in a person’s body after a surgery is completed. One analysis of medical errors looking at malpractice records intended to find out the rate at which surgeons made mistakes like operating on the wrong part of the body or forgetting items inside a patient.

What it found was that around 39 times a week, patients are left with sponges, cotton balls and other equipment inside them after surgery. Around the U.S., there are around 20 instances of surgeons operating on the wrong body parts each week, too. In some surprising cases, the wrong patients were operated on; this happens around 20 times each week as well.

While these numbers are extrapolations, they point out a major issue: Mistakes that can leave patients injured and affected for many months or years. After these injuries happen, patients can be left with few options other than further surgeries or medical malpractice lawsuits to obtain compensation.

So, how can a hospital or surgical team prevent these incidents? Starting with good communication is the first step. Next, making sure to write down all tools being used and checking them off when they are returned to the operating tray can be beneficial. Of course, checking with the patient and making sure the right operation is taking place on the right body part is also smart.