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Why do some wrong-site surgeries occur?

Being diagnosed with a serious illness is a scary event. It is even scarier when a patient is told that they need surgery to better their fight against the illness. While medical professionals have the skills and training needed to complete these procedures, the unfortunate reality is that errors can happen in the operating room. Medical mistakes, even though they might be minor, could be the cause of a serious and even life-threatening situation. Thus, patients should always be aware of the actions taken during their medical care and what steps they could take if errors occur.

When considering ways to prevent medical errors in the operating room, it is important to understand why they occur. There are a wide variety of surgical errors that could harm a patient. However, there are some that are more concerning than others, such as operating on the wrong body part or side of the body.

Why do some wrong-site surgeries occur? When considering a recent study on wrong-site surgeries involved with skin cancer surgery, it was found that 14 percent of all wrong-site surgeries occurred in skin cancer surgeries. These led researchers to question whether having photographs at the time of biopsy and consultation could reduce the number of wrong-site surgeries for this specific type of surgery.

When evaluating a group of 270 surgeries that had these photographs taken, it was found that 1.5 percent of these 270 cases resulted in a wrong-site surgery. In another study, the time frame from biopsy ranged between two to 18 weeks. This resulted in roughly 12 percent of wrong-site surgeries because both the patient and the surgeon misidentified the location.

When medical professionals take the time to ensure they are operating on the correct patient, on the correct side of the body and on the right site, this can reduce and even eliminate these types of surgical errors. Nonetheless, some medical professionals fail to check medical records. This and other negligent acts could be the cause of a wrong-site surgery.

Falling victim to medical errors can significantly impact the life of a patient. Therefore, it is important to understand what options are available to harmed patients. A medical malpractice action could help address the losses and damages suffered while also holding a negligent medical professional liable for his or her wrongdoings.

Source: Medscape.com, "Preventing Wrong-site Surgery," George J. Hruza, MD, April 19, 2018

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