Wrong-site surgical errors can lead to patient harm

Patients who are going in for a surgery are putting their trust in the surgeon. Sadly, surgeons sometimes make errors during the surgery that endanger the patient. Errors that are made when the patient is under anesthesia can't be prevented by the patient. In some cases, the patient might not even know about the issue until much later.

One common form of surgical errors is a wrong-site surgery. This can involve a variety of different circumstances. It can mean operating on the correct part of the body, but at the wrong location. An example of this would be if a surgeon operated on your spine, but the operation was done at the wrong level of the spine.

It is also possible for the wrong-site surgery to occur on an incorrect body part. An example of this would be if the right arm needs surgery but the left leg is operated on. It is even possible for a wrong-site surgery to be done on the wrong patient. An example of this would be if Patient A was supposed to have heart surgery, but it was performed on Patient B instead. This usually occurs when patients have similar last names.

Patients can take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of a surgical error. One way to do this is to ask questions about what is being done, what risks are present and what medications you will receive. After the surgery, you can ask questions about the surgical procedure. Because you might be affected by the anesthesia, you should bring someone with you who can act as your advocate.

If you were harmed because of a surgical error, you might choose to seek compensation. Learning about your options can help you decide what to do.

Source: Patient Safety Network, "Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery," accessed Nov. 18, 2015

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