Wrong-site surgery or operating on the wrong body part is a scary and preventable occurrence in hospitals. With all the time, effort, and money that both patients and hospitals give to surgical procedures, it seems like an impossible event. Still, a 2007 study in the Archives of Surgery found that there are between 1,300 and 2,700 wrong site surgeries each year in the United States. That number might actually be higher because hospitals are not required to report wrong site and wrong patient surgeries. About 33% of all wrong site/ wrong patient cases have serious long-term consequences for the patient.
Wrong site surgeries can occur as wrong location, wrong side, wrong procedure, or wrong patient surgeries. The most common form of wrong-site surgeries is operating on the wrong part of the body.
How Do These Errors Happen?
The Joint Commission, a non-profit organization that awards accreditations to hospitals for quality patient care, reports that most wrong-site surgeries are caused by negligent errors like:
- Rushed hospital bookings
- Missing paperwork
- Failing to acquire or document patient consent
- Failing to verify patient and perform a second check
- Inconsistent use of site marking protocols
- Allowing someone other than the surgeon to prep and mark patient
- Inconsistent use of Time Out—the Joint Commission recommends a period of “Time Out” before going into surgery to verify the patient
- Inefficient organizational culture at the hospital —including disengaged senior leadership, inconsistent staff education, and unreliable focus on patient safety
The two major factors that contribute to wrong site/ wrong patient surgeries are communication failures and inconsistencies in following hospital protocols. The Joint Commission recommends that medical professionals follow the “Time Out” procedure before going into surgery.
The Joint Commission defines the "Time Out" process as:
Perform a standardized Time Out process, which occurs after the prep and drape, and includes the following elements:
- Perform role-based Time Out in which every team member has an active role to play in the process
- Point and touch verification of the surgical site mark by the surgeon and scrub technician
- Address any concerns by the team before proceeding
- Reduce noise and cease all other activity in operating room
The “Time Out” procedure helps doctors and medical professionals verify the type of surgery, and the location of surgery, and the identity of the patient.
What Can Patients Do to Prevent Wrong Site/Wrong Patient Surgery?
While it is the responsibility of the doctor and supporting medical professionals to prevent wrong site/ wrong patient surgeries, patients can take a few simple steps to help in the process:
- Follow through with paperwork and double check to make sure all the information is correct
- Talk to your doctor regularly about what kind of procedure is happening, and on which side it is being done
- Make sure the surgical site is marked before you go into to surgery
One study of self-reported wrong site and wrong patient surgeries in Colorado from 2002-2008 found that orthopedic surgeons had the highest incidences of wrong site surgeries. General surgeons had the second highest rate.
Consult with a Maryland Malpractice Attorney
If your surgeon performed surgery on the wrong part of your body or if you underwent an unnecessary surgery, the law firm of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC can help.
Out experienced attorneys understand the intricacies of medical malpractice cases and know how to hold negligent parties responsible for medical errors that result in serious injuries and hardship.
If you or a loved one suffered from a wrong site/ wrong patient surgery, call our offices today for a free consultation. We do not charge attorney fees until our client gets their desired results.