Wrong-Site Surgical Errors Happen 40 Times per Week in U.S.

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Friday, July 8, 2011

All around the country, people with medical problems are about to undergo an operation today. Though the surgery is necessary, many of the patients are no doubt worried about complications that might develop during or after the procedure.

Many of those possible complications are unpredictable and out of the operating team’s control. However, certain types of injuries sustained during surgery are the result of medical negligence that often should have been easily preventable. One kind of medical malpractice that goes on in the operating room is called wrong-site surgery. It is as basic an error as it sounds: the surgeon operates on the wrong body part or the wrong side (i.e., the left lung instead of the right lung) of the patient.

Since it is such an egregious error, wrong site surgery is referred to as a “never event” in medical circles. Still, patients are the victims of wrong site surgery up to 40 times per week, according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times. These medical errors happen despite guidelines issued nearly 10 years ago by the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, an organization that offers accreditation for health care facilities nationwide.

The guidelines include common-sense solutions such as marking the correct body part with a marker while prepping the patient for surgery, and having the surgery team take a short “time out” just before operating to make sure everybody is on the same page.

But the Joint Commission found that its proposed solutions are still fallible to error, such as when surgeons use a water-soluble marker to mark the surgery spot and the spot is later washed away. In a pilot project with eight U.S. hospitals, the commission found 29 separate steps in the pre-surgery and surgery process where errors can occur that lead to a wrong site operation. The commission urged hospitals to take their safety checks seriously to reduce the risk of committing a preventable error.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “Surgical errors happen as much as 40 times a week around country despite guidelines,” Monifa Thomas, July 4, 2011

Text with a live representative
Text “GETBC” to 314-222-2222
Standard rates apply