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Medical Malpractice: Wrong Site Surgery

Posted by tylerpillay on February 19th, 2018

According to the Joint Commission, wrong site surgery on average happens about 40 times a week. The number of cases reported to the Joint Commission have nearly doubled from 2004 to 2010. This article will discuss who stands to be blamed for wrong site surgery and procedures in place to eliminate them.

One example in Arkansas was of a 15-year old who suffered from seizures and was to undergo surgery in order to remove tissue from one side of his brain to lessen the seizures. The doctors however, operated on the wrong side of his brain resulting in complete and irreparable brain damage. This tragic mistake cost 20 million dollars in a medical malpractice lawsuit. As a result of such wrong site surgery errors, it is commonplace for patients who are undergoing surgery to be asked countless of times, “what are we operating on today?”, by doctors and nurses. Another common feature is for the patient to be given a pen in order to mark which area of the body the surgery is for. The whole point of this is to make sure the surgical staff operates in the proper place.

Wrong site surgery comes in a few forms:
A surgeon might operate on your left knee instead of your right knee
A surgeon might perform the right procedure on the wrong patient
A surgeon might perform the right procedure on the wrong area - for example, a hip replacement instead of a knee replacement

It is important to realize that wrong site surgery is not a rare case, in fact, it happens all the time. One of the main reasons wrong site surgery occurs is as a result of poor communication between doctors and hospitals. Healthcare providers should have procedures in place so as to eliminate the risk of wrong site surgery. Hospitals, administrators, nurses and surgeons must follow guidelines that are set out by the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission gives accreditation to hospitals in the United States. In accordance with the Joint Commission’s policies, hospitals are supposed to follow a triple check system before conducting any surgery. Such systems are carried out before entering the operating room. The checks are:

Checking whether they are treating the right patient
Checking the body part that requires surgery
Checking that the right procedure has been recommended

While in the operating room and before starting the procedure, it is necessary for specific protocols to be carried out. Such protocols require a time out and final verification of what is being done. One article provides the following tips for patients in order to prevent wrong site surgery:

Being patient with the nurses and other surgical staff as they ask questions about your procedure

Having the surgical site marked before the operation and agree about what procedure is being done

Being educated about your procedure and asking for a second opinion before it is done


In instances where wrong site surgery occurs, the patient is eligible for compensation related to medical malpractice. For legal advice and representation with respect to medical malpractice, contact an Anchorage medical malpractice attorney today.

Resource Box:

If you are looking for an Anchorage personal injury attorney, the author recommends Crowson Law Group.

Also See: Wrong Site, Site Surgery, Medical Malpractice, Joint Commission, Wrong, Surgery, Site

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