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Making errors is part of normal human behaviour. However when errors have significant consequences or occur in high risk industries they become of paramount importance. There has been little research in why and how errors occur in the healthcare industry. Errors occur throughout healthcare, but in particular, surgery as a high risk speciality. Surgery is a dynamic speciality with a milieu of possible mishaps waiting to happen. So to understand and prevent errors in surgery we must explore this intricate multi-cogwheel process. This article will summarise the epidemiology of surgical errors, factors which influence them in the patient pathway, explain concepts and models of why errors occur, technical skill error assessment and possible strategies to prevent or reduce surgical errors. Practicing surgery in the new millennium will embrace new innovations, medications, technologies, equipment, operations, all which aim to improve the treatment and care of patients. However we must remember with this constant evolution in healthcare the error goalposts are forever moving, so we must be vigilant not to take our eye off the error ball.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Surg

Publication Date





75 - 81