While many have seen bad horror movies where surgeons operate on the wrong patient or amputate the wrong limb, most presume this could never happen in real life. Rather than a freakish improbable event, wrong site surgery accounts for 13 percent of all medical errors or omissions in medical malpractice cases.
According to the American Hospital Resource Center, this translates into one wrong site or wrong patient surgery per year in a typical 300 bed hospital. The Joint Commission, which is a Chicago-based organization that accredits hospitals, indicates that wrong site surgeries occur forty times a week according to an article on wrong site surgery reported in the Washington Post. A 2010 study conducted by Philip F. Stahel, director of orthopedic surgery at Denver Health Medical Center, reviewed 132 wrong site surgeries and found that one-third resulted in serious injury or wrongful death.
Wrong patient or wrong site surgeries can have a devastating impact
When one is the victim of medical malpractice in the form of wrong site surgery, the impact can be devastating, including the need for revisionary surgery, impaired organ function, loss of a limb or even death. Despite the seriousness of a wrong site or wrong patient surgery, these medical errors can be avoided by implementation of basic universal protocol. This protocol includes confirming and marking the site prior to the operation. A time out should also be taken immediately prior to the procedure.
Victims of wrong site surgery may not immediately discover the surgical mistake until the symptoms that necessitated the medical procedure resume. Because the necessary surgical procedure was not performed, the medical condition may become worse and result in a less positive medical outcome.
While wrong site or wrong patient surgeries can have a devastating impact on one’s life, many medical malpractice claims based on this type of surgical mistake have been successful.