The Frequency of Wrong Site Surgery Errors

A recent Reuters Health article published results from studies done at the University of Colorado on the frequency of surgical errors. It's pretty scary to report that wrong site surgery accounted for 107 cases out of the 27,000 studied. Even more frightening is that 25 of those cases were surgeries on the wrong patient (and I'd argue cases of wrong-site surgery, too).

Estimates are that 1 in every 75,000 U.S. operations results in some sort of error.
Although this may not sound like much, the fact that these errors are easily preventable makes it a great case for some serious health care review. I've even heard of patients being told to mark their surgical site themselves just to have peace of mind that the surgery is performed in the correct area.

The major contribution to wrong site surgery errors lies with communication problems. Misread charts, errors in judgment and failure to follow protocol all add to a heightened chance that a surgical procedure will be performed on the wrong side of the body. Apparently it's quite easy to work on the wrong lung, because, hey, we have 2 of them!

One of the main culprits found in the study was surgical teams that neglected to perform the short briefing sessions, known as time-outs, before and during a procedure.
The time-outs provide a moment for the team to review the details of the operation to make sure the proper patient is undergoing the operation, the correct procedure is being performed and the surgical site is correctly identified.

When these safety protocols are followed, the chances of a wrong site surgery are drastically reduced. There's no extra equipment or necessary staff and the briefings take only a few minutes - so there's no excuse for not performing these time-outs if they will help save lives. 

Contacting a Fairfax Medical Malpractice Attorney

You don't have to deal with insurance companies and hospitals alone when you're looking to file a Virginia medical malpractice case. Fairfax medical malpractice attorney Ben Glass fights to help victims in the Virginia and D.C. areas settle their medical malpractice claims.

Before you go any further with your decision, order a copy of my complimentary guide to Virginia medical malpractice claims, Why Most Victims of Medical Malpractice Never Recover a Dime. To set up a no-cost consultation, contact me today - 703-591-9829.

Ben Glass
Ben Glass is a nationally recognized Virginia injury, medical malpractice, and long-term disability attorney
4 Comments
Part of the problem is patients who don't read the information they're given, and don't listen to the questions they are asked. They are just not engaging. Sometimes it's stress. Sometimes they're just not interested in knowing anything.
by theresa January 16, 2014 at 08:49 PM
Don't mark the surgery site. It's an infection risk. Ask where the incision will go and mark the WRONG side: "Wrong Side."
by theresa January 15, 2014 at 09:37 AM
Reading this makes me very nervous for when I will have my next surgery. It does make sense though because we are all human and make mistakes. We are not created to be perfect, so it is understandable how doctors make mistakes as well. It is just scary because it is a time when our lives are out of our hands.
by Emily Bailey November 16, 2010 at 01:39 PM
That is a very scary thing to know that there are a lot of errors that can go on. It is sad to see such professionals the doctors and surgeons by neglecting and messing up by not double checking what they are doing first and to make sure that is the correct patient.
by Daniel Koo November 12, 2010 at 04:03 PM
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