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Wrong site surgery: A medical error that can happen to anyone

Many Houston residents will need to undergo surgery in their lifetime. Surgery is a critical component of healthcare that saves thousands of lives each year. Unfortunately surgical errors may occur, including wrong-site surgery. So what is wrong-site surgery and how can it happen?

Wrong-site surgery is surgery that is performed on the wrong area of a patient. It can also be the wrong surgery performed, or a surgery performed on the wrong patient. The main cause of these medical mistakes appears to be a lack of communication. Other reasons for wrong site surgery include not having a checklist, emergency surgery, inadequate medical record review, insufficient patient assessment, not marking the surgical site and many other circumstances.

These types of medical errors are almost entirely preventable. In order to prevent these serious mistakes there are a number of things a surgical staff can do. There is a universal protocol in place to prevent these errors. The universal protocol involves three parts and includes a preoperative verification, marking the surgical site and a time out. In the preoperative verification the medical professionals should review the patient's records and go through a checklist. In the site marking a medical professional marks where on the patient's body the surgery is to occur. And in the time out stage the surgical team meets to discuss what is to happen during the surgery.

A surgical error can be devastating for patients and their families. If a patient believes he or she is a victim of a surgical error, the patient may want to discuss their concerns with a legal professional skilled in medical malpractice. The negligent surgeon or medical provider may be held responsible and compensation may be available for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Source: NIH.gov, "Wrong-site surgery: A preventable medical error", Deborah F. Mulloy and Ronda Hughes, accessed Feb. 16, 2015

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