With less than 600 wrong-site surgeries reported nationwide in 2007, a New York resident might figure that the probability of experiencing such an incident is unlikely. However, specialization of a medical professional may cause a slightly different view as approximately one-fourth of orthopedic surgeons with 25 years of experience and one-fifth of hand surgeons are reportedly involved in wrong-site incidents during their careers.
In order to establish better reporting and preventive standards, the issue has been studied and addressed on a national level. Major goals have been adopted that focus on prevention through better patient-identification procedures. Additionally, efforts to include family members in the process have been important. A pre-operative process is integral to limiting the risk of a wrong-site event.
Studies note that the major causes of such surgical errors include leadership problems, communication failures, and lack of compliance with established procedures. Additionally, certain high-risk factors increase the possibility for such medical errors. Changes from normal operating rooms or setups can lead to errors. Time pressures and emergency situations may lead to greater levels of risk which result in errors. More procedures or surgeons can also complicate the setting and increase the potential for surgical mistakes.
The legal implications of wrong-site surgeries are significant and are reflected by the high number of successful medical malpractice cases that stem from these errors. In eye-surgery incidents, almost 80 percent of wrong-site surgeries result in medical malpractice awards. In claims stemming from orthopedic surgeries, nearly 85 percent of plaintiffs receive malpractice awards. A patient who may have suffered from a surgical error may wish to discuss the case with a personal injury lawyer.
Source: ahrq.gov, “Wrong-Site Surgery: A Preventable Medical Error”, Deborah F. Mulloy and Ronda G. Hughes, September 13, 2014