According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, wrong-site surgeries, which occur when a physician operates on the wrong body part, is a common medical error that happens over 150 times a month in hospitals and clinics around the United States.
Medical mistakes like this can have devastating physical, emotional and financial effects on patients and their families so it's imperative that medical professionals utilize strategies that will help reduce the likelihood that these events will occur.
Common Causes of Wrong-Site Surgeries
Some of the common reasons that wrong-site surgeries happen include:
- Inadequate staffing level of a medical facility
- Pressure to reduce preoperative preparation time
- Lack of availability of information about the procedure
- Number of doctors performing the surgery
- Inadequate planning and assessment of the patient
Failure to follow hospital policies, procedures and protocols
Ways Hospitals Can Prevent Wrong-Site Surgeries
However, the AAOS says that hospitals can take steps to dramatically reduce the instances of wrong-site surgical mistakes. These steps include:
- Creating a surgical checklist. Medical facilities should create a surgical checklist and making sure to properly train their surgical team members on how to use the list. It can help to not only prevent wrong-site surgeries, but additional medical mistakes like physicians accidentally leaving surgical instruments inside a patient after the surgery is completed.
- Taking a "time out." Hospitals should encourage surgical teams to take a time out before beginning a surgical procedure so they can discuss specific information about the patient, his or her condition and the specific operation that is about to take place. During this time, the team can double check the patient's medical records to ensure that discrepancies are addressed before the operation begins.
- Marking the site. Surgeons should always mark the surgery site and put their initials on that area. The helps to increase doctors' accountability. It also standardizes who is going to perform the task at hand.
- Instituting "red rules." Red rules, or rules that have specific instructions that should always be followed in a surgical setting, help to maintain safe health care protocols and should be instituted in certain circumstances. Additionally, any member of the surgical team should be permitted to stop an operation if a specific red rule is not properly followed.
- Communication. Before the surgery, doctors should communicate to the patient exactly what is going to happen during the procedure. This helps strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and provide honest communication.
It's unfortunate that wrong-site surgeries occur as often as they do. Fortunately, the law allows individuals the opportunity to seek legal recourse in the event they are harmed by a hospital or physician who performs a wrong-site surgery.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a medical error, speaking with a medical malpractice attorney is advised. Your lawyer can advise you of the possible options available under the law.