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Wrong-site surgery errors 100 percent preventable

Going into the hospital for a surgery always poses a risk to your health, just because it is an invasive procedure. It is not expected that the health care team would make a mistake, but sadly, mistakes happen. The Joint Commission found wrong-site surgeries to be the third-highest ranking sentinel event, as reported in the "Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses,".

The Joint Commission also reports that wrong-site surgeries are rare events, but then goes on to say that many wrong-site surgeries are not reported. Regardless, these events are preventable, provided that standardized procedures are put in place in the preoperative setting.

What is a wrong-site surgery?

Most commonly, wrong-site surgery is associated with a surgery performed on the wrong side of the body. For instance, you went in for surgery on your right ankle, but the surgeon operated on your left one. But the Joint Commission defines wrong-site surgery in broader terms. It could be that the surgeon operated on the wrong part of your body. The wrong surgical procedure might be performed. It could even be surgery performed on the wrong patient.

As a patient, the best thing you can do is to be proactive in your care. Make sure you understand the procedure before you go into surgery. Do not get frustrated with the staff asking the same questions. If you cannot speak up for yourself, have a friend or family member go with you. However, it is up to the medical care team to ensure your safety.

What causes a wrong-site surgery error?

The Joint Commission lists over 30 system and process errors that can contribute to this type of mistake. It can range from the organizational culture of the facility where you are treated or miscommunications between staff to a noncompliance of procedures. It is a very complex situation that is typically due to many small mistakes, rather than one big one. The patient is left to deal with the aftermath, not only physically, but emotionally and financially. The different health care providers involved in the surgery may each point blame at someone else, leaving you in the middle to sort it out.

Even though a wrong-site surgery is devastating for the surgical team as well as the patient, someone needs to be held accountable for the error. Some insurance companies are no longer covering the costs associated with a wrong procedure, which makes it even harder for the patient to deal with the incident. An experienced attorney can assess your case and help you find the right solution for your situation.

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