Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery

Doctors are expected to do what they can to help patients with illnesses and injuries. Sometimes, surgery is required to repair an injury or remove a diseased body part or organ. Surgeries are not easy, even if a doctor has done the same one a thousand times. Cutting open a person and putting them under anesthesia always comes with risks. A lot can go wrong during surgery. The doctor may operate on the wrong body part or even the wrong patient.

These are called never events because they are situations that should never happen. When a surgical error like this does occur, it can have adverse effects.

These cases can be terrifying. Many surgeons perform surgery on the wrong side of the spine. In one case, the wrong patient had cardiac surgery performed on them. These are just examples of some scary situations that have occurred during surgery.

These situations are called wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-patient surgeries and show an extreme lack of care on the surgeon’s part. A person can sue for medical malpractice if they can prove that the medical treatment fell below the appropriate standard of care and that substandard care caused an actual injury. It is not enough that the substandard care occurred. The surgical error must have also caused actual damages, such as injuries and worsened healthcare.

The good news is that these errors are relatively rare. One study showed that such errors occur in approximately 1 of 112,000 surgical procedures. At this rate, a hospital would only experience one such error every 5 to 10 years. However, this estimate only includes procedures performed in the operating room. The rate would be much higher if procedures performed in other settings, such as ambulatory surgery and interventional radiology, were included.

Examples of Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery

  • Wrong-site surgery. This occurs when a surgical procedure is performed on the wrong part of the body. Examples include operating on the left knee instead of the right knee, removing a healthy kidney instead of the diseased one, or performing surgery on the wrong limb.
  • Wrong-procedure surgery. This happens when a different procedure is performed than what was intended. Examples include performing a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy for breast cancer, conducting a circumcision instead of a vasectomy, or performing the wrong type of knee repair.
  • Wrong-patient surgery. This occurs when a surgical procedure is performed on the wrong individual. Examples include operating on a patient with a similar name or medical record number to the intended patient, performing surgery on a patient who was misidentified or whose identification wasn’t confirmed properly, or conducting a procedure on a patient who was in the wrong room or bed due to administrative errors.

Preventing Surgical Errors

Preventing surgical errors can improve healthcare outcomes and reduce medical malpractice cases. Here are several strategies that can be used:

  • Effective communication. Clear and open communication among members of the surgical team is essential. This includes proper briefing before the surgery, clear assignment of roles and responsibilities, and effective exchange of information during the procedure.
  • Checklists and protocols. Implementing surgical safety checklists, such as those developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), can help ensure that all necessary steps are taken before, during, and after surgery. These checklists typically cover critical tasks like confirming patient identity, verifying surgical site, and confirming the availability of equipment.
  • Proper patient identification and site marking. Verifying patient identity, procedure, and surgical site through multiple checks, including patient interviews, medical records review, and site marking by the surgeon prior to surgery.
  • It is important to conduct preoperative timeouts where the entire surgical team pauses to verify patient identity, surgical site, procedure, and other critical details before starting the operation. This allows any concerns to be addressed before proceeding.
  • Standardized procedures. Following evidence-based best practices and standardized surgical procedures can minimize variability and reduce the likelihood of errors.
  • Team training and education. Continuous training and education for surgical team members on topics such as new techniques, technologies, and safety protocols can help enhance their skills and awareness of potential risks.
  • Equipment and instrument maintenance. Regular maintenance, calibration, and inspection of surgical equipment and instruments can reduce the risk of equipment-related errors during surgery.
  • Surgeon well-being and fatigue management. This means addressing surgeon fatigue and workload through measures such as scheduling adequate rest periods, limiting consecutive surgical hours, and providing support services for mental and physical well-being.

Contact Us Today

Operations are often routine, and some are minor. Still, surgeries always come with risks. Patients should be aware of these risks and proactive to ensure that wrong site, wrong procedure, and wrong patient surgeries do not occur.

If you or a loved one has been injured or there has been a death resulting from medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation. Because of the rules in Florida, you need to act quickly to preserve the right to sue. Count on the team at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm, to guide you through the complexities of a medical malpractice case. Fill out the online form or call (954) 876-4344 to schedule a free consultation. We have offices in Weston, Coral Gables, and Daytona Beach.