Wrong-site surgery can cause serious health problems, even death. Although wrong-site surgery is uncommon, when it does occur, the results can be catastrophic.
Wrong-site surgery is defined as a procedure done on the wrong person, the wrong organ or limb, or the wrong vertebral level. A study was conducted in 2006, supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which analyzed wrong site surgery cases reported to large malpractice insurers from 1985 to 2004. Nearly 3 million surgeries were reviewed during this 20 year period.
Researchers discovered that there was a rate of 1 in 112,994 cases of wrong-site surgery, based on the reviewed surgeries. When taking into account this rate, the study suggested that wrong- site surgery occurs every 5 to 10 years at the average large hospital. Events involving retained foreign objects are ten times as more likely to occur. However, the authors of the study do recognize its limitations, such as the possibility that the incidence rate reported may underestimate the true rate of wrong site surgeries, due to the fact that only those cases that prompted claims to the malpractice insurers were identified.
A survey of hand surgeons was conducted several years ago that was mentioned in the study. Among the hand surgeons who responded to the survey, 21% reported that they performed a wrong-site surgery at least once during their career, with wrong-finger surgery accounting for 63% of the 242 incidents.
Preventing Wrong-Site Surgery
There are actions you can take to help prevent wrong-site surgery. In the American College of Surgeons’ brochure, titled “ What is Correct-Site Surgery?” there are various tips given to ensure the correct operation is performed. One of the first things mentioned in the brochure is communication. You should not hesitate to discuss the details of your procedure with your surgeon and ask as many questions as possible. Some of the suggested questions include the following:
- What is the name of the operation that will be done?
- Where or on what body part will you be operating?
- Are there any alternatives to this operation?
- What are the risks of this procedure?
- What is likely to happen if I don’t have the operation?
- Who is in charge of the surgical team?
- About how long will it take to recover after the operation?
- Will the correct part of my body be marked before the operation begins?
The surgical team should involve you in clearly identifying the surgery site with a pen or marker. They should also make a checklist using your records, imaging test results and informed-consent form. Your identification bracelet should be checked and a surgical staff member should verify your name.
If you have been the victim of wrong-site surgery, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Florida medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Lilly, O’Toole & Brown, LLP at (863) 683-1111.