Wrong-site surgeries happen 40 times per week

Undergoing a surgery is a stressful event for New York patients. When undergoing surgery, you are essentially placing your life in the hands of physicians, surgeons, nurses and hospital staff. Because you are placing your life in these people's hands, you have the right to expect that they will be thorough, safe, effective and professional. Unfortunately, medical malpractice happens, and people who have been hurt by surgical errors have the legal right to be compensated for their medical injuries.

Wrong-site surgeries continue to be the most frustrating type of surgical errors for patients and medical professionals alike. Healthcare safety watchdogs refer to wrong-site surgeries as "never events," meaning that they should never happen. However, Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare believes that as many as 40 of these "never events" happen across the nation every week.

A wrong-site surgery happens when an invasive procedure is done on the wrong patient, a wrong site on the body, the wrong side of the body or when a surgeon performs the wrong procedure. Often, a wrong-site surgery leaves a patient worse off than before the surgery was scheduled.

The causes for surgical errors of this type have been difficult to determine. Researchers have found no single cause behind wrong-site surgeries. Rather, researchers have found that wrong-site surgeries typically result of a series of small errors that culminate in a huge mistake.

A common type of mistake that can lead to wrong-site surgeries happens when surgeons had inadequate information about their patients. This often happens because there is not a uniform way for staff to collect information about patients. Researchers at the Joint Commission have found that carefully standardized methods for collecting information can help prevent this problem.

The Joint Commission also found that other common mistakes such as incorrectly marking a surgical site can be prevented when healthcare professionals follow a rigid and uniform set of steps when preparing for surgery.

Even though there does not appear to be a silver bullet that can prevent all wrong-site surgeries, simple steps can reduce the rate at which they happen. Sadly, until surgeons and hospitals can follow those simple steps meticulously, wrong-site surgeries will continue to affect people's lives.

Source: Medscape.com, "Wrong-Site Surgery Occurs 40 Times a Week," Mark Crane, 6/29/2011

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