Colorado patients may not imagine themselves facing the consequences of wrong-site surgical procedures, but statistics based on certain types of surgeries may cause some to think twice. Reports indicate that for orthopedic surgeons exceeding 25 years of experience, at least 25 percent have been involved in wrong-site errors. Of hand surgeons, 20 percent may perform wrong-site surgeries during their careers. In fact, statistics indicate that a WSS may occur in as many as one of every 112,994 surgical procedures. Unfortunately, the statistics can vary dramatically based on the type of procedure, but with more transparency in reporting, the number of incidents recorded has definitely risen.
This type of surgical error is considered preventable, and professionals have worked to establish important measures that can help to minimize the possibility of a WSS. Unfortunately, one of the causes of such errors is the ignoring of these measures. In addition to failure to adhere to procedures, communication breakdowns and leadership problems also contribute to these medical errors.
Reports indicate that a briefing period prior to surgery allows for clarification that can prevent surgical error. Careful communication with a patient and their loved ones before a surgery is also important. A patient who is asked to sign the site of a planned surgical procedure has a better chance of avoiding a WSS. Risks are higher in emergencies in which communications and sign-your-site protocol are not implemented. Disruption of procedures through scheduling pressures or changes can also be a problem. Similarly, involvement of more than one surgery site or surgeon can complicate matters and increase the risk of WSS.
While medical malpractice awards are obtained in a large percentage of WSS cases, not all claims result in awards. A patient may want to bring such an incident to the attention of an attorney promptly to ensure that important information about the situation is documented.
Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, “Wrong-Site Surgery: A Preventable Medical Error“, Deborah F. Mulloy; Ronda G. Hughes, September 19, 2014