Wrong site surgery is more common than everyone would like to think, and yet, by implementing simple safety measures, it is completely preventable. Read on to learn about incidences of wrong site surgeries and the causes and risk factors associated with them. There are also some tips for preventing this type of medical negligence.
How often are wrong site surgeries performed?
An Institute of Medicine report, To Err is Human, found that perhaps as many as 98,000 people are injured each year because of medical errors. This figure includes wrong site surgeries, wrong patient surgeries, and “other operating room maladies and mistakes.”
Meanwhile, a more recent report from 2012 from researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine found that there about 20 wrong site surgeries each week in the United States. Wrong site surgeries are a type of "surgical never-event," so-called because these types of errors are completely preventable and they should never happen.
Causes & Risk Factors for Wrong Site Surgeries
Wrong site surgeries are the result of numerous factors.
- Ill-prepared or insufficiently trained staff
- Staff turnover mid-operation
- Lack of pre-op fact checking
“[Wrong site surgery] is generally caused by a lack of a formal system to verify the site of surgery or a breakdown of the system that verifies the correct site of surgery,” summarizes Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses. The Joint Commission has broken the root causes into three main groups.
- Communication failure (70 percent)
- Procedural noncompliance (64 percent)
- Leadership issues (46 percent)
Below are a few additional risk factors that may be associated with wrong site surgeries.
- Emergency surgeries (more harried, less preparation)
- Multiple surgeons
- Multiple procedures
- Obesity (it’s easier for doctors to make mistakes and even leave medical objects inside the patient when the patient has a high body mass index)
- Time pressures
- Room changes
Prevention Methods: The Universal Protocol
The Joint Commission recommends a three- tiered practice, the Universal Protocol, for preventing wrong site surgeries.
- Preoperative verification process: This process includes gathering and verifying data, making sure the facts are consistent with the patient's expectations and with the team's understanding of the intended patient, ensuring the procedure and site are correct, and dealing with any discrepancies prior to surgery.
- Marking the operative site: The site of operation should be visibly marked, and preferably while the patient is still awake and aware so the patient can verify.
- Implementing a “Time Out”: Prior to surgery, the staff should give pause to conduct a final verification of the patient’s identity, the procedure, and the body part.
Patients may even be able to take a few steps to prevent a surgical error. This might include verifying the procedure and speaking up before the procedure if something seems wrong.
The Damaging Effects of Wrong Site Surgery
Wrong site surgeries have serious implications. First of all, patients may have new, additional medical issues to contend with as a result of an unnecessary surgery. Secondly, the original health or medical issue may still exist. This increases their risks and likely means another surgery is required.
When doctors make mistakes, it is the patient who suffers. Imagine going into surgery for a mastectomy and having the wrong breast removed, or going in for back surgery, and waking up to discover that the surgeon operated on the wrong section of your back. The psychological, physical, financial, and emotional repercussions can be astronomical for wrong site surgery victims.
These victims have the right to sue the responsible parties. Unsurprisingly, they often win their cases. “Surgery performed on the wrong site or wrong person has also often been held compensable under malpractice claims. Indeed, 79 percent of wrong-site eye surgery and 84 percent of wrong-site orthopedic claims resulted in malpractice awards,” reports the nursing handbook.
Call Jason Schultz in Peachtree City if You're a Victim
If you were the victim of a wrong site surgery, consult an attorney about a filing a claim for your damages. If you reside in Peachtree City or the surrounding areas, call Jason Schultz for a case evaluation. Contact us today at 404-474-0804 to set up a free consultation.