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Wrong-site surgery avoidable via simple precautions

Despite advances in medical technology and an ever-increasing understanding of the failures that lead to medical malpractice, avoidable medical errors continue to occur at an alarming rate in New York hospitals and those nationwide. Due to ignorance or disregard of well-established safeguards, surgeons still perform surgical procedures on the wrong parts of the patients' bodies.

The medical community has established techniques and protocols to avoid the occurrence of wrong-site surgeries, but they still happen. Mistakes that lead to these surgical errors include incorrect information listed on operating room schedules as well as wrong information in patient histories. According to a 2010 report by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PPSA), anesthetic blocks were the most frequently reported wrong-site procedure.

The PPSA report said surgeries at the incorrect vertebral level were next most common wrong-site operation followed by wrong-hand and wrong-eye surgeries then pain blocks performed on the wrong side. To avoid wrong site surgeries, surgeons should mark the correct site with their initials prior to the procedure to avoid these adverse events. Some surgeons do not recognize the importance of the technique or have someone else sign the site for them. Some surgeons avoid the practice because of a perceived risk of infection by the ink though studies have shown that worry is not justified.

Those who have suffered injury due to a wrong-site surgery or other medical error may be entitled to compensation for further medical expenses, pain and suffering or other damages. A personal injury attorney experienced with medical malpractice suits could gather and review medical records and other evidence in order to build a strong case for a client.

Source: aaos.org, "Patient safety means patients first", James H. Herndon, September 10, 2014

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