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Preventive strategies for wrong-site surgeries

A patient in a New York hospital who faces surgery may want to be aware of issues such as wrong-site surgeries and preventive strategies to limit the risk of a surgical error. The consequences of such an error can be devastating, resulting in a negative outcome. The consequences for a physician may be a significant deterrent to errors as licensing boards and insurance providers develop standards for penalizing those at fault.

The possible causes of wrong-site surgical errors can vary, attributable to the system governing the medical activity or to the process used in preparing for a surgery. Verification of the surgery site may be inadequate due to a lack of institutional controls. A checklist is important for verification, and exclusion of some surgery team members from the verification process could increase the risk of a wrong-site incident. Time constraints or medical emergencies could result in errors. Insufficient patient assessment and care planning could lead to errors. Communication issues between the medical team and the patient could also create problems. A more complicated surgery involving multiple procedures or surgeons could also result in mistakes.

In some cases, unusual equipment or patient positioning could lead to wrong-site surgery taking place. In other cases, errors might be attributed to issues such as patient obesity or other physical traits affecting the positioning during surgery. Staffing issues such as training, competency, and credentialing could play a role in the risk of surgical errors as well. A patient may want to be sure of clear communication and identification of the surgery site and plans during all activities preceding a surgery.

An individual who has experienced a wrong-site surgery may deal with emotional and physical distress after the incident. In severe cases, the consequences could be life-altering, and it may be important to discuss the implications and possible remedies with a medical malpractice attorney.

Source:, "Wrong-Site Surgery: A Preventable Medical Error", Deborah F. Mulloy and Ronda G. Hughes , September 13, 2014

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