Wrong site surgery can be one of the most traumatic medical malpractice experiences a hospital patient can go through. It is almost impossible to understand how a surgeon, for all his years of medical school and training, manages to operate on the wrong part of the body, but it happens every year. Wrong site surgeries run the gamut, including performing knee-repair surgery on a patient’s good knee, remove the wrong kidney, amputating the wrong arm, inserting an ear tube into the wrong ear, or even operating on the wrong patient. The heading “wrong-site” also applies to the tragic case out of California in 1999 when a couple at St. Joseph’s Hospital learned that they had received a baby who did not belong to theThe Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that wrong site surgery occurs only in one of every 112,994 cases.
These numbers sound low, but when you consider the number of surgical procedures that we undergo in the United States, you realize that each year 1,300-2,700 wrong-site procedures are performed each and every year. In fact, that numbers predict that every large hospital in America will operate on the wrong part of a body every five to ten years. By comparison, this rate is about 10 times less frequent than the retained sponge or foreign body. The Joint Commission, who is in charge of evaluating and accrediting more than 15,000 health care organizations across the United States has identified several risk factors that increase a patient’s risk of wrong-site surger
Involvement of more than one surgeon on the case, either because of multiple procedures or because of patient transfer. The performance of multiple procedures on the same patient during a single trip to the operating room, especially when the separate procedures are performed on different sides of the body; Unusual time pressures; Unusual patient characteristics, such as deformity or obesity, which alters the usual process of equipment set-up or patient positioning.
The Joint Commission has also instituted a Universal Protocol for Preventing Wrong Site, Wrong Procedure, and Wrong Person Surgery. This protocol, which is endorsed by over 50 professional healthcare associations and organizations, includes four principle components:
· Pre-operative verification process;
· Marking the operative site;
· Taking a “time out” immediately before beginning the procedure;
· Adapting to the requirements of non-operating room settings.
If you are scheduled for surgery, the Joint Commission recommends that you review this brochure, “Help Avoid Mistakes in Your Surgery,” and talk with your doctor before the surgery in order to decrease the chances that something like this happens to you.