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How common are wrong-site surgeries?

Arkansas patients might be interested in the rate of occurrence of wrong-site surgeries. Termed as never events by the National Quality Forum, these errors can involve anything from surgeries on the wrong body part to procedures performed on the wrong patient.

Although surgical errors tend to garner a lot of publicity, they are actually fairly uncommon. An Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality study found the frequency of wrong-site surgical errors to be 1 in 112,000 procedures. This puts the rate of wrong-site errors in a specific hospital at around one every five to ten years. However, this only includes surgeries performed within an operating room, and the study did not acquire data from other settings such as ambulatory surgery. Considering that Veteran Affairs research has shown that over half of wrong-site procedures happen outside of the operating room, one can estimate the rate of wrong-site surgical errors to be significantly higher.

Studies have also found that the most common type of wrong-site surgeries are ones performed on the wrong side of the body. Approximately 59 percent of orthopedic surgeries are done on the incorrect body side while 23 percent are performed on the correct side but wrong site. Only 5 percent of these surgeries are done on the wrong patient. Causes of wrong-site surgeries can be attributed to poor staff communication, rushed timeouts that may not ensure correct surgical information and production pressures to complete a surgery.

During a malpractice suit involving surgical errors, an attorney may work closely with the victim to determine the extent of injuries. Fully investigating the cause and effect of the wrong-site surgery may be the first priority a lawyer pursues. Each situation is unique, and this article is not intended as expert legal advice.

Source: Patient Safety Network, "Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery", October 23, 2014

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