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What are wrong-site surgical errors?

The last thing that people going into a surgery want to deal with is having an operation on the wrong part of the body. While efforts are in place at many hospitals and surgical centers to help stop wrong-site surgical errors, these types of cases do still occur. For the patients to whom they happen, the botched surgery is only the first problem in what is likely to be a series of issues. Our Washington, District of Columbia, readers might like to know some basic information about botched surgeries.

What are some methods for preventing wrong-site surgeries?

There is no sure-fire way to stop wrong-site surgeries from happening. Some of the ways being used to minimize the chance of this happening include a surgeon initialing the area of the surgery in a pre-surgery consult with the patient, marking the area of a spinal surgery based on an x-ray of the spine prior to the surgery and taking a time out to recheck the surgical order prior to doing the procedure. Some medical centers use checklists as a way to prevent wrong-site surgical procedures.

What should happen if it is discovered that the surgery was done on the wrong area?

The surgeon should bring the error to the patient's attention as soon as possible. This meeting should include a plan for correcting the error. In some cases, the patient's family members should be part of the process. For patients, ensuring they understand what happened, the possible effects of the error and how the error will be corrected are all vital. Because correcting the error might involve more medical costs and missed work, some patients might decide to seek compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, "Information Statement: Wrong-Site Surgery" Oct. 12, 2014

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