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How common are wrong-site surgeries?

Very few Arizona patients can expect to ever encounter a wrong-site surgery. This sort of preventable medical error is considered to be of great importance to health care facilities and practitioners, and a wide variety of procedures and protocols have been implemented to prevent it. These measures have been broadly effective. Though it has not yet proven possible to prevent all medical error completely, wrong-site surgeries and wrong-patient procedures will not happen to most patients.

The Joint Commission, a health care accreditation agency, estimates the incidence of wrong-site surgical events at somewhere around one in 112,000. This means that they will occur at a typical hospital about once every decade. The incidence of such accidents can be slightly higher in procedures where there are multiple structures with similar functions, such as fingers or the vertebrae of the spine. There is also a greater chance of a misapplied procedure in settings outside the operating room.

Serious and committed efforts have been made by a wide variety of medical professionals to determine the root causes of wrong-site surgery and prevent them. Although great strides have been made with protocols that ask the medical team to take a timeout and double-check everything before the surgery begins and with programs that direct the doctors to clearly mark the area to be operated on, there is some doubt that all error can ever be excised from the system.

Surgical errors have the potential to cause terrible and life-changing injuries to those who are unlucky enough to experience them. Compensation for the harm done to the patient may be able to be obtained by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit and then by going to trial or settling with the defendants out of court.

Source: Patient Safety Network, "Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery", October 14, 2014

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Law Offices of Raymond J. Slomski, P.C.

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