FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-06-01
Modern-day medicine can accomplish some amazing things. Yet, advanced science and technology has been unable to eradicate the human errors that lead to wrong site surgery.
Scope of Wrong Site Surgery
Wrong site surgery is the performance of an operation on the wrong patient, or on the wrong body part (for instance, amputating the healthy left leg instead of the damaged right or removing a kidney from the wrong patient). Tragically, wrong site surgery is almost always preventable; it is often caused by errors as simple as flipping an x-ray or bringing the wrong patient into the operating room.
Wrong site surgery can obviously be devastating to patients, and is all too common in many American hospitals. Granted, it is difficult to know with accuracy exactly how prevalent wrong site surgery is, as only an estimated 10 percent of wrong site surgeries are actually reported. But, based on the best numbers available, the Joint Commission (a prominent healthcare accreditation organization) estimates that wrong site surgery occurs 40 times a week in U.S. hospitals and clinics.
Prevention of Wrong Site Surgery
Lack of communication between medical professionals and simple carelessness are often to blame for wrong site surgeries. So how can they be prevented?
Several strategies have been suggested to curb the problem. For one thing, all documents that mention the side and site of the surgery should be verified both the night before the operation and immediately before the procedure is to begin. In addition, marking the surgical site — having the surgeon initial the site prior to surgery and ideally involving the patient in the marking process while he or she is still conscious — has also proven highly effective.
Finally, instituting a thorough pre-surgery checklist — and ensuring all staff members are trained and compliant with its use — can prevent errors and miscommunications that lead to wrong site surgeries.
What If You Have Been a Victim?
Most wrong site surgeries are compensable through medical malpractice claims. And, once a wrong site surgery is discovered, a corresponding legal claim is often fruitful: researchindicates that 84 percent of wrong site orthopedic suits result in monetary malpractice awards.
If you believe you may have experienced a wrong site surgery, hold negligent doctors accountable and get the compensation you are entitled to. Contact a surgical error lawyer today.