New Report Estimates Wrong Site Surgeries Take Place 40 Times Each Week

wrongsite.jpgAs reported by The Washington Post, a new report by a hospital accreditation body estimates that so-called wrong site surgeries take place 40 times each week in the nation’s hospitals.
Wrong site surgeries are operations that take place on the wrong part of the body, such as amputations of healthy limbs, back surgeries that are performed on the wrong vertebrae, etc.
Wrong site surgeries are so common in fact that one in four orthopedic surgeons will make a wrong site error in their careers, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
The tragedy is that wrong site surgeries are among the most preventable kind of medical malpractice. Pre-surgery “timeouts” where the surgical team reviews the surgery, including surgical site, have been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of wrong site surgery. In seventy-two percent of wrong site surgeries, the surgical team was found not to have stopped for a timeout.
And yet surgeons are resistant to adopting universal timeouts.
Perhaps surprising to a lot of tort reformers, only one-third of wrong site surgeries result in a medical malpractice claim. In fact, the wrong site involving Dr. Peter Ring of Boston (which we blogged about last year) never resulted in a medical malpractice lawsuit being filed, perhaps because of the conspicuous bravery and honesty of Dr. Ring, who bucked the medical system’s code of silence and used his wrong site surgery as a teachable moment.
As commendable as Dr. Ring’s conduct was, however, we need more than surgeons who are humble enough to publicly acknowledge their errors. We need surgeons who are willing to adopt the proven tactics – such as surgical timeouts and checklists – that can help eradicate wrong site surgeries.

This blog in maintained by the Boston medical malpractice lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.