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Prevalence of wrong-site surgery in the operating room

Patients in New Mexico who are wondering if having a surgical procedure is safe might be interested in a report on wrong-site surgery. This error occurs in orthopedic, podiatric, urological, neurosurgical and general surgery procedures. The prevalence might be largely underreported and may only represent about 10 percent of actual cases.

WSS includes surgical procedures done on the wrong area, the wrong side of a patient or the wrong patient. For example, It is described as a sentinel event or one that is largely unexpected and which may cause physical injury or death. WSS is seen as an invasive procedure that is done in and out of a hospital setting since many surgical procedures are done in doctor's offices and private clinics.

The reasons for WSS vary, but at the root of the problem is the absence of a formal systematic approach to identifying and verifying the surgical site. A lack of communication, estimated to be at about 70 percent, between doctors, nurses, operating room personnel and patients, is the most common causal event. Furthermore, even if a system is in place to verify the site of surgery, it may fall apart. Other issues, such as doing more than one procedure on the same person, also affect the probability that the right site is targeted.

While devastating to a patient both physically and emotionally, this surgical error is preventable. Using better patient identification methods, involving family and using site marking may be beneficial.

When WSS occurs, the surgeon and operating staff fail in their duty to the patient. This negligence may cost the financial difficulty in addition to physical injuries. An attorney who has experience in medical malpractice litigation may review hospital records and obtain expert opinion to build a strong case against the healthcare provider and the hospital.

Source: ahrq.com, "Wrong-Site Surgery: A Preventable Medical Error", Deborah F. Mulloy and Ronda G. Hughes, September 13, 2014

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