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Why do wrong-site surgeries take place?

A wrong-site surgery can leave a patient in pain, result in irreversible damage to the body or have other serious consequences. If you are planning to have surgery, there are a few things you should know about why these accidents happen.

What are the main causes of wrong-site surgeries?

One of the main causes is an error with scheduling not verifying the patient's presence and the accuracy of patient data. For example, if a patient arrives early and signs a document, the scheduling staff member should be making sure that the chart is correct and assigned to the correct patient in the right order.

Mixing up patient documents, having two patients back-to-back with similar names and other such issues can lead to errors like taking the wrong patient into surgery or performing a surgery on the wrong part of the body. Most hospitals and surgical wards now require you to wear a wristband with your information, and it must match up with the documents the doctors and staff have before surgery.

Accepting verbal requests for surgery can cause mistakes, so staff members should only take written bookings. These bookings include important patient data, so having them visibly in front of the scheduling assistant helps make sure the data is accurate in the patient's surgical chart.

Another thing that can create a wrong-site surgery risk is if the booking form has unapproved abbreviations, illegible handwriting or other mistakes. Physicians should always send clear, legible documents to the surgery department to prevent mistakes. If the department can't read the documents, then it should request changes or ask for a new form. If you have any concerns that an error was made because the scheduling department or surgical team didn't take the time to stay organized or call your doctor for clarification, you may be able to put together a medical malpractice case.

Source: American Hospital Association, "Reducing the Risks of Wrong-Site Surgery: Safety Practices from The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Project," accessed Dec. 15, 2016

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