Understanding Wrong-Site Surgery

Understanding Wrong-site Surgeries and Medical Malpractice.

Although doctors and other healthcare professionals have years of education and training, they can make mistakes at work just like anyone else. When doctors lack focus, fail to double check their work, or take shortcuts, they put patients at risk. This type of neglect from physicians or surgeons can be medical malpractice and may cause severe consequences. One uncommon, but unfortunate, type of medical malpractice is wrong-site surgery. We sat down with our own Morgan Murphy to answer a few common questions about wrong-site surgeries.

What is a wrong-site surgery?

A wrong-site surgery refers to any surgery in which a physician performs a procedure on the wrong part of the body, works on the wrong patient, or performs the wrong procedure. Wrong-site surgeries are a type of “never event,” given that term because patient safety experts have determined this medical error should never occur. The exact incidence of wrong-site surgery is unknown, in part because surgeons do not always report these errors.

Wrong-side surgeries are a type of wrong-site surgery. A wrong-side surgery occurs when a surgeon performs the correct procedure, but on the opposite side of the body. For example, if a patient required surgery on the right index finger and the surgeon operated on the left index finger, the surgeon performed a wrong-side surgery. However, if the surgeon operated on the right thumb, the surgeon performed a wrong-site surgery. When a surgeon operates on the incorrect level of the spine, this is sometimes called a wrong-level surgery. A wrong-level surgery is another type of wrong-site surgery.

How do doctors prevent wrong-site surgeries?

The Joint Commission requires that every hospital adheres to a set of guidelines to ensure that wrong-site surgeries never occur. Hospital staff are required to follow a triple-check system called a “Time out” before performing any surgical procedure. Prior to entering the operating room, staff must check that they are:

  • Performing the correct procedure
  • Performing the correct procedure on the correct patient
  • Performing the correct procedure on the correct part of the body

Upon entering the operating room, all staff must unanimously agree to the procedure to be performed and any questions should be resolved before the surgery begins.

Certain medical societies recommend specific practices to help doctors prevent wrong-site surgeries. For example, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons developed a campaign called “Sign Your Site,” which recommends that surgeons actually write on the patient’s skin at the surgery site. This practice is also followed by other categories of surgeons. Similarly, the North American Spine Society similarly has recommended processes related to reviewing x-rays in order to prevent wrong-level spine surgeries.

Doctors can also prevent wrong-site surgeries by doing some of the things that would help any of us: get enough sleep, pay attention, and double or triple check your work.

What are the consequences of a wrong-site surgery?

Consequences of wrong-site surgeries vary greatly depending on the patient and type of surgery. Most victims of wrong-site surgeries must undergo an additional surgery to correct their initial issue, and some patients may require another surgery to correct issues caused by the incorrect surgery. The consequences of wrong-site surgeries are not always immediately obvious, and medical experts may need to give opinions on the long-term consequences of this type of mistake.

How can you identify a wrong-site surgery?

Patients notice right away when a doctor has operated on the wrong side of his or her body, but other wrong-site surgeries are less obvious because the evidence is hidden inside the patient’s body. A wrong-site surgery could go unrecognized for a long period of time, depending on the nature of the surgery.

Victims of wrong-site surgeries may not find out their surgeon operated on the wrong site until a subsequent healthcare provider reviews medical charts or imaging results. Other victims may notice they aren’t healing from a recent surgery as soon or as well as their physician expected.

Who is liable for a wrong-site surgery?

When following proper procedures, wrong-site surgeries should never occur. However, we know they do occur. Liability depends greatly on the facts of each case. Generally speaking, hospitals and healthcare facilities are more likely liable if a “time out” is not done or other good preventative procedures are not in place. In addition, the physician performing the procedure almost always bears some responsibility

What if I think my recent surgery was on the wrong site?

If you are concerned about your recent surgery, you may want to request your medical records or consult another physician for a second opinion. Physicians do not always recognize their mistakes right away, so getting a second opinion may shed new light on the situation.

What are the damages in a wrong-site surgery case?

Wrong-site surgery compensation varies and is dependent on your case. Common damages in a wrong-site surgery case may include the cost of past medical care, cost of future medical care and any pain and suffering caused by the wrong-site surgery. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys are in the best position to ensure you are fully compensated for all of the possible consequences of a wrong-site surgery.

Although wrong-site surgeries are considered a “never-event” in the healthcare industry, we know all too well that mistakes happen in the operating room. If they do, our expert medical malpractice attorneys are here to fight for the recovery and peace of mind you deserve.

Missouri Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you have suffered as a result of medical malpractice, contact our legal team right away. Waiting to seek legal representation can prevent you from filing a claim and receiving the compensation you deserve.

Contact Zevan Murphy today.

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