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Steps surgeons should take to avoid a wrong-site surgery

Everyone here in Texas has made mistakes at one point or another. As the saying goes, “to err is human.” In many industries, however, mistakes can lead to serious injuries or death. One of those fields is health care. When a surgeon makes a mistake and operates on the wrong body part, patient or organ, the aftermath can be devastating or even deadly for the patient. Nearly every hospital in the country has procedures meant to avoid wrong-site surgery, and surgeons should be following these protocols prior to every operation.

It may seem like common sense, but the importance of making sure that the right patient is on the operating table cannot be stressed enough. This may be the only surgical procedure that the patient goes through on a particular day, but surgeons and their teams often perform multiple procedures throughout the day. Verifying that they operate on the correct patient is vital. Once the surgical team verifies that they have the correct patient, the type of procedure and location of the procedure require verification.

Marking the correct surgical site reduces or eliminates the potential for error. The team uses medical records, X-rays and other imaging sources to verify what body part requires surgery. Even after the preliminary verifications are done, surgical teams should take a “timeout” to reverify all information before the procedure begins. Everyone on the team should agree they have the right patient, the right body part and are performing the right operation. Without these precautions, mistakes can easily occur.

When errors occur and a wrong-site surgery takes place, the failure to take these precautionary measures is often the cause. When reviewing medical records and the surgical notes, a medical expert will often look to see whether the proper protocols were observed, the harm that came to the patient and the prognosis for recovery (if the patient lived). A Texas resident who suffered harm due to this type of egregious error — or surviving family members if death occurred — may use this information as part of a medical malpractice claim against the surgeon, hospital and others who may bear legal responsibility for what happened.

Source: jointcommission.org, “Speak Up“, Accessed on May 20, 2017