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Wrong Site Surgery

Wrong-Site Surgery Medical Error

It’s almost unimaginable. How can such an error take place? Performing surgery in the wrong place or even on the wrong person is known as a NEVER EVENT, meaning it should never happen. The medical community agrees that never events do not occur in the absence of some type of negligence.

How Often Do Wrong-Site Surgeries Happen?

Unfortunately, wrong-site surgeries happen more often than any of us would like to believe leaving patients in unnecessary pain, shock, and with severe emotional trauma. In worst-case scenarios, wrong site surgery can be fatal.

In fact, the number of wrong-site surgeries has been increasing in recent years. The Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event program, to which hospitals report mistakes and negative events, has shown a 15% increase in the reported events since 1998. Unfortunately, reporting by hospitals is not entirely accurate and it is believed that only about 10% of events are actually reported at all.

The Joint Commission predicts there may be fifty or more wrong-site surgery events every week in the United States.

Independent surveys of doctors across many fields of medicine show that around half of surgeons have performed surgery in the wrong area at least once during their career. With the complexities of medicine, anatomy, and surgery, doctor mistakes are not always considered negligence. Many of the risks that patients agree to on the consent form prior to surgery are common, even understandable events within the medical community. However, wrong-site surgery, in particular, has such a simple resolution that it seems unbelievable that such mistakes could be made and at such a high rate.

What is a Wrong Site Surgery?

Wrong site surgeries can include:

  • Surgery performed on the wrong side of the body.
  • Surgery performed in the wrong area of the body.
  • When the wrong limb is amputated.
  • When the wrong organ is removed.
  • Surgery performed on the wrong patient.

When preparing for surgery, medical professionals and staff are required to follow a strict protocol in the operating room. Procedures are put in place to ensure that patients are safe and that the proper medical procedure is performed. In fact, there are universal, nation-wide guidelines in place to prevent wrong-site surgeries.

The Joint Commission predicts there may be fifty or more wrong-site surgery events every week in the United States.

Included in these policies are certain checks that must be done before surgery and again immediately before operating. Some precautions you may recognize are nurses having the patient draw an X on the wrong limb, having the patient verbally confirm their name and the procedure they are having, and a pre-procedure meeting with the doctor, nurse, and patient where the patient, procedure, and area of the body are confirmed.

These three steps are, more generically, to mark the procedure area, to verbally verify the patient and the procedure taking place, and to take a “time out” prior to the procedure to ensure that the correct patient, procedure, and area are confirmed.

Still, mistakes occur in situation like these:

  • X-ray readings taken of the wrong part of the body.
  • Multiple surgeons or multiple surgeries.
  • Time constraints for surgery schedules.
  • Inadequate, inconsistent, or absent site markings on patients, especially where an X for one doctor indicates the proper limb but an X for another doctor means the improper limb.
  • Site markings removed during patient prep in the operating room.
  • Failure to communicate with patients.
  • Failure to follow appropriate checks before and during an operation.
  • Poor communication between medical professionals and hospital staff especially with hand written charts and unapproved abbreviations.
  • Using the wrong medical chart to recommend treatment.
  • Distractions in the operating room.

How can such an error take place? Unfortunately, wrong site surgeries happen more often than any of us would like to believe leaving patients in unnecessary pain, shock, and with severe emotional trauma.

Thankfully, there has been proof that implementation and consistency following the above listed protocols drastically reduces the number of never events, specifically wrong-site surgeries occurring in hospitals who are dedicated to improvement.

How Can I Protect Myself from Wrong-Site Surgery?

How We Can Help You

Many victims of wrong-site surgery end up making a full recovery. However, if you or someone you love were left with permanent pain, disability, or mental trauma as the result of a preventable event, we are here to help you recover for what has been done to you.

Filing a medical malpractice claim allows you to fight for compensation to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, along with bringing awareness to the problem of wrong-site surgery errors.

The legal battle can be tough to go alone. It can be very complex and difficult without accepting help from a qualified personal injury law firm like Van Wey, Metzler & Williams.

We can help you pick up the pieces of your life. We have over 30 years of experience representing personal injury clients. We encourage you to contact us about your case so that we can give you a free assessment and advise you about the best way to move forward.

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