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Study of nerve block errors shows room for physician improvement

A 10 year study of misplaced nerve blocks has shown that, while they are not as disastrous as wrong-site surgeries, they are much more common. The study also found that when policies are instituted and followed through by surgical teams, many of these wrong-site nerve blocks can be prevented.

The study by Pittsburgh researchers looked at quality improvement and billing data to catalog the number of wrong-site nerve blocks over almost a decade. While the incidence of these incorrect nerve blocks was reduced by policies put in place by hospitals, they were still ten times higher than the incidence of misplaced surgeries. Most of the time that these incorrect blocks occurred, it was due to the surgical team not following the policies. The study also found a higher incidence of wrong-site nerve blocks when a member of the anesthesiology team performed it, rather than a member of a dedicated interventional pain team.

The researchers believe that, though the consequences for a wrong-site nerve block are less than those of a wrong-site surgery, the nerve block problems should not be overlooked. The researchers concluded that, given the policies in place, the incidence of these misplaced nerve blocks should be zero. Posters placed in patient rooms should alert them to hospital policy regarding wrong-site procedures.

Wrong-site nerve blocks and surgeries can lead to very dangerous results for the patient affected. Mistakes by doctors can require a patient to have more surgeries, pain and suffering, and increased medical expenses and lost wages. An attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases may be able to help assess fault in a dispute with a negligent doctor and recover the necessary compensation for injuries suffered.

Source: Anesthesiology News, "Misplaced Nerve Blocks Frustrate Efforts at Prevention", Michael Vlessides, August 12, 2013

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