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New Study Shows High Number of Wrong Site Surgeries

Photo of Randy Sorrels

A recent study released some very shocking data: Even in 2011, with all of the medical advances and new technology, The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare estimates that surgery occurs on the wrong site of a patient's body about 40 times a week. These numbers represent a preliminary finding of a project with eight hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers, and are extrapolated to represent a nationwide estimate.

Wrong site surgeries have been around since the beginning of surgeries. Today, there is no single root cause of this form of medical malpractice, but human error is always a factor. In fact, human errors are often compounded by more human errors. Surgeries can occur on the wrong patient, the wrong procedure can be performed, the wrong side of the body can be operated on, as well as the procedure can be performed at the wrong site. Examples include amputating the wrong leg or removing a kidney from the wrong patient.

Errors can occur when poor information is exchanged (example: between the patient and the medical care provider, or between the intake personnel and the physician), distractions arise in the operating room, and even when indelible pens aren't used and an unauthorized pen mark is washed away during the pre-operative patient preparation. But those who study these problems are convinced these statistics can be turned more in favor of the innocent patient. Hospitals that train, study and retrain their personnel to avoid the foreseeable mistakes are less likely to be a part of a wrong site surgery. The Joint Commission has unveiled some mandatory rules to implement in hospitals, and it is hoped hospitals throughout the United States will begin the implementation as soon as possible.

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