Medical Malpractice Lawyer: Wrong Site Surgery Far Too Common in U.S. Hospitals

Incredibly, it is estimated that every year more than 4,000 people who undergo surgery suffer from preventable medical mistakes called “never events,”—experts agree these errors should never occur— including wrong site surgery, wrong side procedures, and medical instruments left inside a patient, leading to serious injuries and deaths.

A recent study released on WebMD looked at public medical malpractice claim information for surgical errors from a data bank between 1990 and 2010. Such surgical errors that result from gross medical negligence, like surgeons performing a wrong procedure, on the wrong side or sites have cost insurance carriers and liable hospitals around $1.3 billion after victims file lawsuits to recover proper compensation for injuries and emotional distress.

Preventable surgical errors cause a wide range of issues, with about 60 percent of affected patients suffering temporary injury, a third of patients suffer permanent injuries and over 5 percent of surgical error cases lead to a wrongful death. Common preventable hospital errors that cause injury include:

  • Wrong site: Operating on the wrong part of the body
  • Wrong side: Operating on wrong side—cases have involved wrong side amputations
  • Leaving a foreign object inside a patient’s body after surgery
  • Performing wrong procedure

Joe Lyon is an experienced Cincinnati, Ohio Medical Malpractice Attorney, well-versed in the science and economic impact serious surgical mistakes have on the victim’s life and family. 

Preventing Wrong Site Surgery & Hospital Errors

In an concerning report, the majority of surgeons involved in a surgical mistake have been involved in more than one previous preventable surgical error, and over 12 percent have been identified in more than one surgical Never Event like a wrong site surgery or wrong procedure.

A relatively easy-to-follow process has been instituted in many medical centers and hospitals to prevent serious medical errors like instrument retention, and wrong site surgery. The protocol involves using markers to designate where the surgeon should operate as well as an instrument checklist.

“Time-outs” can make sure medical records and surgical plans match the patient, tool and sponge counts and the use of technology like surgical sponges with radiofrequency tags can prevent serious injury and error.

Surgeons, doctors and nurses are supposed to double check everything before making any incision, and confirm that the correct procedure is being performed. Wrong side surgery errors result from doctors and nurses failing to follow basic protocol, perhaps stemming from lacking of training in a particular hospital. Common reasons for surgical errors can include:

  • Lack of site verification when multiple procedures are scheduled
  • Ineffective communication or medical briefing
  • Documentation not used to verify patient, procedure, site and side
  • Site mark removed during surgery prep
  • Time-outs do not occur when multiple procedures are performed
  • Leadership is not actively engaged
  • Inconsistent organizational focus on patient safety
  • Staff are not empowered to speak up
  • Inconsistent staff education
  • Pressure to increase surgical volume may lead to shortcuts

Legal Action Following Wrong Site Surgery

Despite basic safety procedures in place, major surgical mistakes still occur due to miscommunication, carelessness, negligence and fatigue. Wrong site surgery, wrong procedure, and wrong patient errors are more common than previously thought, and are totally inexcusable.

Performing a procedure on the wrong side of a patient’s body is one the worst medical errors that a medical team and hospital can make and compensation for the victim can include the recovery of medical expenses, lost wages and the pain and suffering involved with the distressing situation.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a wrong site surgery, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.