Wrong Site Surgery Too Common In The United States

June 26, 2011

According to the Washington Post, the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare has stated that 40 wrong-site surgeries happen every week in the United States.

Performing The Wrong Surgery

Mistakes include amputating the wrong leg, removing a kidney from the wrong patient or in lay terms, performing the wrong surgery. According to surgeon Dr. Dennis O'Leary, the problem may be prevented by following some very simple rules, including the preoperative verification of important details, like making sure that an X-ray isn't flipped or that the right patient is on the operating table....

The Commission studied the operating protocols at 8 hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. The Commission found that problems with the facilities preoperative procedures and their scheduling processes, as well as ineffective communication and distractions in the operating rooms increased the risk of wrong-site surgeries. All of these surgical facilities found that establishing redundant verification procedures in the preoperative rooms decreased the risk of wrong-site surgeries from 52% to 19% and, consequently, increased patient safety.

Simple Verification Procedures

Much like in the aviation industry, where pilots go through a checklist before taking off, surgical facilities, whether they are ambulatory surgical centers or full blown surgery centers at well established hospitals must set their own checklists.

The lists should include marking the incision site with indelible pens. According to Mary Reich Cooper, MD, JD, Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer at Lifespan Corporation, their doctors step out to the holding area and mark the incision with an indelible pen on the patient's body, then verify with the rest of the surgical team that the mark is correct once the patient is brought into the operating room.

Moreover, according to the President of the Commission, Dr. Mark R. Chasin, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, mistakes can occur as a result of making incision marks that would subsequently wash away during the preparation of the patient before bringing him or her into the operating room. This problem was resolved by using only approved indelible pens tested and approved by the hospital.

Targeted Solutions Tool

In order to help all medical facilities discover the flaws in their own processes and reduce the number of wrong surgeries, the Commission developed a Targeted Solutions Tool which identifies precisely where and how these mistakes in the pre operative process occur. Another important recommendation made by the commission was the implementation of "time outs," during which all the staff (including the surgeons) would stop all they were doing and go through the afore-mentioned checklist.

Yet, despite these recommendations, a recent study shows that 107 wrong site surgeries and 25 wrong patient surgeries were performed between 2002 and 2008 in the State of Colorado alone. The main causes for these incorrect procedures were communication errors (100 percent of the cases); errors in diagnosis (56 percent) and errors in judgement ((85 percent).

As a result of these surgical errors, 43 patients were significantly harmed, with one of them dying as a result of surgery being performed on the wrong body part.

If you or a loved one have been the victims of a medical malpractice case such as wrong site surgery, you should immediately contact a law firm experienced in handling these cases. The Miami Dade County Medical Malpractice Law Offices of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano has throughout the years represented many clients involved in medical malpractice cases, traumatic brain injuries and serious personal injuries. Visit our website to learn more about our firm and contact us today for a free consultation.