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How common are wrong-site surgeries?

Wrong-site surgeries are exceedingly uncommon in New Mexico and around the country. The overwhelming majority of medical procedures carried out are delivered accurately and executed correctly. However, that does not mean that no wrong-site surgeries occur. They are simply taken very seriously by both the medical establishment and the citizenry at large, so they loom larger in the public consciousness than they might otherwise.

Reports indicate that wrong-site surgeries, wrong-procedure incidents, and wrong-patient procedures occur once for every 112,000 procedures carried out. A typical hospital can expect this extremely unfortunate occurrence about once every ten years. Although the incidence of wrong-site surgery is more common in procedures carried out beyond the operating room, and certain types of operations such as vertebral surgery are more prone to such errors, at no point do these sorts of mistakes become common.

The Joint Commission, the health care accreditation organization, has published a protocol for preventing wrong-site procedures. Two of the major tools it advocates are clear and unambiguous marking of the area to be operated upon before the surgery begins and a timeout before any invasive procedure begins to give the medical professionals involved time to double-check and mentally prepare. These measures help to keep wrong-site surgery to the extremely low levels that it occurs at today, but it may be impossible to eliminate the possibility of error altogether.

The relative rareness of wrong-site surgeries and similarly botched procedures means that they are of great importance when they occur. Any patient who may have suffered harm because of medical malpractice has the right to seek compensation for the harm that has been done and may wish to file a civil suit requiring financial redress. An attorney's advice can be beneficial for those who wish to pursue the available remedies.

Source: Patient Safety Network, "Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery", October 14, 2014

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